Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database Description
Welcome to the NCSL Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database!
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), in cooperation with the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, brings you categorized, in-depth information about bills and executive orders that have been introduced in the fifty states and the District of Columbia related to child support.
The NCSL Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database contains passed, pending and failed legislation and executive orders from 2011, 2012 and 2013, and is searchable by state, topic, keyword, year, status and primary sponsor. Topics relate to custody and visitation, economic stability, enforcement, family violence collaboration, father engagement, guidelines, health care coverage, prevention, healthy family relationships, implementation, and other related issues (see below). The explanations of topics provided below are brief highlights of filed legislation contained in the database and are not intended to include all features or provisions. Users can search text for examples and specific key words. For information on legislative organization and procedures, click here.
Database Topic Categories
Custody and Visitation
Custody is the legally binding determination that establishes with whom a child shall live. There are many types of custody arrangements, including joint custody, shared custody, split custody, etc. Custody types vary from state to state. Visitation rights are granted when one parent is awarded sole custody of the child and the noncustodial parent is usually awarded visitation rights to see their child or children. Parents must amicably work out reasonable times and terms that work best for both parents and child. Legislation in this category includes joint custody, visitation and supervised visitation arrangements; special coordination for grandparents and military parents; and parenting time provisions.
Having a stable income allows noncustodial parents to provide consistent and reliable child support payments. Programs that assist noncustodial parents in finding and keeping work and connecting noncustodial and custodial parents to economic stability resources also increase regular child support payments and lift families out of poverty. Legislation in this category includes policies designed to help noncustodial parents meet their support obligations, provisions to allow modification of support orders and changes to TANF pass-through policies.
Enforcement focuses on obtaining payment of child and medical support obligations included in child support orders. Legislation in this category includes parent location, paternity establishment, establishing child support orders and collecting child support. It includes specific enforcement methods such as liens, wage garnishment, revocation of licenses and compliance.
Family Violence Collaboration
Family violence is a possible cause and/or product of situations resulting in child support obligations. States are focused on reducing the risk of family violence and helping family violence survivors pursue child support safely. States may conduct prevention, assessment and treatment activities in these cases. State child support, fatherhood, domestic violence and child welfare programs often collaborate to include fathers where possible to help individuals meet child support obligations. Legislation in this category includes custody and visitation arrangements to maintain family and child well-being.
Child support obligations are more likely to be met when the noncustodial parent is involved in their children’s lives. This is especially true of low-income noncustodial fathers. Child support programs work with fathers from their children’s births through their age of majority. Legislation in this category includes fatherhood programs and initiatives.
Federal regulations require that states set guidelines that meet certain minimum requirements. This includes taking into consideration all earnings and income of the absent parent, and having specific descriptive and numeric criteria that results in a computation of the support obligation and also provides for the child or children’s health care needs. Legislation in this category includes state methods to determine child support obligations and the length of such obligations.
Health Care Coverage
All child support cases must now include an order for the child or children’s medical support, specifically health insurance, cash medical support, or both; and health insurance can be private or publically funded coverage. Legislation in this category includes requirements for noncustodial parents to provide health care coverage.
Child support caseloads are driven by the increasing number of children born to unmarried parents. Preventing the need for child support services improves child support outcomes. Educating teenagers and adults about the financial and legal costs of having a child out of wedlock and the role of child support can encourage voluntary paternity establishment and compliance with support orders. Legislation in this category includes ways to prevent child support such as required parenting classes.
Healthy Family Relationships
Developing healthy relationships between children and their parents is important to child well-being and consistent child support payments. Legislation in this category includes ways to involve all members of the family such as grandparents and military parents, co-parenting education, counseling and mediation, and parenting plans.
The state child support enforcement agency plays an important role in collecting and enforcing child support orders. Legislation in this category includes changes to the administration of the program, data-sharing requirements, new pilot programs and collaboration between departments.
This category captures legislation that may address issues that are unique and fall outside the other categories. Legislation in this category includes a variety of topics including military parent inclusions, tribal coordination, grandparent involvement, disability provisions, education provisions, use of electronic communication and federal reciprocity compliance.
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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. 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 and Emily Wengrovius 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 Human Services and Welfare Standing Committee.
For more information regarding NCSL's child support work, please visit our Child Support Homepage.