Family-Centered Strategies Legislation
In 2013, at least 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia enacted 140 pieces of legislation related to child support.
In addition to traditional enforcement and collection strategies, at least 14 states passed legislation that focused on strengthening families through child support programs. From the establishment of task forces to study ways to increase child support collections to a Transitional Jobs Program designed to help unemployed and underemployed parents find work, states strove to encourage and assist families in achieving economic stability and to prevent the need for child support enforcement services. However, states also enacted legislation to enhance enforcement measures to discourage obligors from falling delinquent through income and lottery withholding measures, in addition to allowing for community service sentences and license suspensions.
As part of a family-centered approach, states enacted legislation to encourage healthy family relationships between children and their incarcerated parents and to create a legal system that offers a safe avenue for victims of domestic violence to collect support and remain secure.
Parental involvement in kids' lives is important to the creation of strong, healthy families, as well as successful child support outcomes. Over a dozen states enacted legislation regarding custody and visitation, parenting time determinations, and fatherhood engagement.
Below is a selection of bills that encourage a family-centered approach to child support policy. For more information on, and for a full list of enacted legislation from 2013, visit the Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database.
Child Support Prevention
CT HB 6678: establishes a task force to research ways to increase the collection of past due child support. Charges the task force with examining many issues including whether the use of additional municipal and state police officers to serve orders would result in greater compliance with court orders, whether the state should invest in technology enhancements that are specifically designed to promote compliance with court orders, including, but not limited to, ensuring that any order entered by a judge or family support magistrate is transmitted to and made accessible on the Connecticut online law enforcement communications teleprocessing system, and whether implementation of these reforms would be cost effective when measured against any increased child support that can reasonably be expected to be collected through implementation of such reforms. Further, the bill details that the task force will be made up of bipartisan membership from both the House and Senate, in addition to the Commissioner of Social Services, and the Chief Court Administrator.
DE HCR 29: establishes the Task Force on Child Support Collection to study and make findings and recommendations regarding a plan to reduce the total number of child support arrears. Requires the Task Force to present a final report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly within one year of passage and details the composition of the Task Force.
Custody and Visitation
Legislation addressing military deployment was prominent during the 2013 legislative session. 8 states enacted 9 bills dealing with custody and visitation issues of deploying parents. Many of them allowed temporary orders to be put in place prior to deployment and terminated following the deploying parent's return.
IL HB 2992: authorizes the court to consider whether to award one or both parents the right of first refusal to provide child care for the minor child during the other parent’s normal parenting time, unless the need for child care is attributable to an emergency. Defines right of first refusal to mean that if a parent intends to leave the minor child or children with a substitute child-care provider for a significant period of time, that parent must first offer the right to care for the child personally to the other parent. Allows the parties to agree to the terms of the right of first refusal, or if they don’t, requires the court to consider if the right of first refusal is in the best interests of the child.
CO HB 1004: establishes a Transitional Jobs Program to offer the opportunity to work in transitional jobs to eligible individuals. Gives priority to unemployed or underemployed non-custodial parents, veterans, or displaced workers 50 years of age or older. Authorizes transitional workers to make at least minimum wage. Requires that eligible individuals be legal U.S. residents, lawfully present, work eligible, Colorado residents, 18 years of age or older, not incarcerated, unemployed or underemployed for less than 24 hours a week for at least four consecutive weeks, and they must demonstrate that they have actively sought employment through the Public Workforce System. Allows for reimbursement to employers for wage-related costs and payroll taxes.
Income Withholding: child support enforcement techniques are continually evolving. During the 2013 legislative session, eight states enacted eight bills dealing with income withholding. Included among these are bills dealing with new-hire reporting, data sharing, or the definition of "new-hire."
Lottery Withholding: Similar to income withholding, four states enacted five bills during the 2013 legislative session allowing for interception of lottery winnings and set forth the requirements of reporting and withholding place on gambling facilities.
OK HB 2166: allows the court to order two, eight-hour days per week of community service if the court finds that a person who owes child support is in indirect contempt for the failure to comply with an order for child support, child support arrears, or other support, and the court has found that the person who owes child support is willfully unemployed.
WA HB 1218: modifies provisions regarding suspension or revocation of hunting and fishing licenses for specified convictions. Establishes different suspension periods for violations of child support-based suspensions. Specifies that these suspensions are in addition to any suspension required by the statute for the underlying fish or wildlife violation.
Family Violence Collaboration
Termination of Parental Rights: over the past few years there has been a trend towards restricting the parental rights of parents whose conduct in conceiving the child involved sexual assault. During the 2013 legislative session the trend continued and 12 states enacted 12 bills either restricting or terminating the parental rights of parents who conceived a child through sexual assault. While the right to custody or visitation were restricted or prohibited, the duty to provide support for the child remained.
CO HB 1259: deals with the allocation of parenting time in situations involving domestic violence. Includes in the factors of a best interest determination the ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other party, except that, if the party is acting to protect the child from witnessing or being the victim of domestic violence or child abuse, or neglect, the party’s protective actions will not be considered. Sets forth the requirements to obtain a protection order, provisions relating to parenting time orders, and evaluations and reports.
MT HB 555: clarifies that unless each party provides written, informed consent, the court may not authorize or permit continuation of mediated negotiations in situations of domestic violence. Allows that such mediation, if it does continue, may be conducted by a mediator who is trained in mediating domestic violence cases. Specifies that attorneys may not be excluded from mediation in cases of domestic violence and that a victim may elect to have advocates and support persons who are not attorneys present during the mediation. Expands the minimum qualifications of a mediator to include knowledge in the area of domestic violence.
LA HB 572: establishes the Fatherhood First Initiative, previously the Fatherhood Initiative. Specifies that the purpose is the same and is defined in the bill as a program to promote positive involvement and interaction of fathers with their children, with an emphasis on children eligible or formerly eligible for TANF benefits. Expands on the objectives of the program to include the promotion of public education and increase of public awareness of resources for substance abuse and addiction, anger management and conflict resolution, fiscal awareness and financial literacy, and parenting skills, child development, and family studies. Establishes the Fatherhood First Council and enumerates its functions.
NH HB 554: Current law forbids a child support order from requiring a parent to contribute to their child’s college or educational expenses. Instead, HB 554 allows parents to agree on contributions to college or other postsecondary education expenses as part of a stipulated decree for divorce. Sets forth the guidelines for the agreement, including the requirement of court approval. Requires private or court administered mediation before the hearing to enforce the agreement.
VA HB 1723 & VA HB 718: establish that a parent's decision to attend and complete an educational or vocational program that is likely to maintain or increase the parent's earning potential may be considered as a factor in determining whether to impute income to such parent for purposes of the parent's child support obligation. Specify that any child care costs incurred by a custodial parent due to the parent's decision to attend such an education program may also be considered.
Health Care Coverage
MS SB 2010: grants the court the authority to order a father to reimburse Medicaid for expenses of pregnancy and hospital stay.
SD HB 1021: modifies the medical support provision by clarifying that medical insurance is considered reasonable in cost if the cost attributable to the child is equal to or less than eight percent of the parent’s net income, after a proportionate medical support credit is applied. Allows for an exception for good cause shown to set the support lower than the “rate not less than the most recent annual pay standard.” Expands the types of support payments that are not subject to modification to include previously ordered support payments that have become due, whether paid or unpaid, in contrast to just past due payments in existing law. Defines “date of hire” as the date a person first provides services for an employer for pay. Makes technical changes to ensure gender neutrality and to conform with the addition of the definitions of “custodian” and “noncustodial parent.” Includes disestablishment of paternity proceedings to the list of proceedings in which the parentage of a child is at issue, for which the parties must provide blood, tissue samples for testing, and for which the child must be less than 18 years of age. Creates a rebuttable presumption that a child is the legitimate child of the marriage under certain circumstances. Adds the potential biological father of the child to the list of people who can rebut the presumption. Offers the procedures required for the potential biological father to rebut the presumption. Requires the court to address child support in termination of parental rights proceedings.
Healthy Family Relationships
WA HB 1284: allows for the use of a teleconference or video conference to allow a parent who is unable to participate in a case conference in person due to incarceration, to participate. Requires that if a parent is incarcerated, the parenting plan must address how the parent will participate in the case conference and permanency planning meetings, and where possible, must include treatment that reflects the resources available at the facility where the parent is confined. Requires the plan to provide for visitation opportunities, unless visitation is not in the best interests of the child. Adds an exception for good cause for termination of parental rights if the child has been in out-of-home care for fifteen of the last twenty-two months. Adds the incarceration of a parent to the list of good cause exceptions. Details factors for considering whether a parent who is incarcerated maintains a meaningful role in the child’s life. Allows the constraints of a parent’s current or prior incarceration and associated delays or barriers to accessing court-mandated services to be considered for a parent’s failure to complete available treatment. Grants that when a parent has been sentenced to a long-term incarceration and has maintained a meaningful role in the child’s life, and it is in the best interest of the child, the department should consider a permanent placement that allows the parent to maintain a relationship with his or her child.
MS HB 1009: authorizes the Mississippi Department of Human Services to contract with vendors or contractors to improve the performance and efficiency of its services and requires advance legislative approval before a county office of the department may be closed.
RI HB 5562 & RI SB 619: modify the administering agency from the department of administration, division of taxation, to the department of human services, office of child support services. Include cell phone companies in the list of sources the department can require to share limited location information regarding those who owe child support. Require that the information from shared sources, such as cell phone companies, be electronic. Limit the type of information the department can obtain from a telephone or cell phone company to the billing and/or residential address of the obligor.
DE HB 131: establishes The Gestational Carrier Agreement Act, specifying that gestational carrier agreements are legal contracts. Establishes standards and safeguards applicable to all gestational carrier arrangements, including the principle that the child is considered the child of the intended parents and that parental rights are vested in the intended parents upon the birth of the child. Recognizes the need for legal recognition of parental rights before birth, especially in cases where medical decisions need to be made immediately after delivery and sets forth the parental responsibilities that attach to the intended parents upon birth or upon breach of the agreement. Clarifies language consistent with the legalization of civil unions in Delaware.
NV AB 421: replaces the terms “artificial insemination” and “surrogacy agreements” with “assisted reproduction” and “gestational agreements” which are based on the Uniform Parentage Act. Defines the situations by which parentage of a child is established by a woman through assisted reproduction. Clarifies when parentage is established through a gestational carrier, particularly, if a gestational agreement is entered into. Details that the intended parents become the legal parents of the resulting child upon birth, while the gestational carrier and her spouse are not the legal parents of the child. Sets forth requirements to become a gestational carrier and authorizes reimbursement and compensation of gestational carriers.
About This NCSL Project
NCSL staff in D.C.. and Denver can provide comprehensive, thorough, and timely information on critical child support policy issues. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families. NCSL's online clearinghouse for state legislators includes resources on child support police, financing, laws, research and promising practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legislature that would like training or assistance related to this topic.
The Denver-based child support project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCSL staff in Washington, D.C.. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child support issues before Congress and the Administration. In D.C., Sheri Steisel can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or email@example.com.
The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Health and Human Services Standing Committee.