In this month's issue, read about lawmakers who are authors, key cases affecting states before the U.S. Supreme Court, the state of civics knowledge, website ideas to steal and more.
Welcome to the Child Support Digest, a quarterly publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Child Support Project. The digest covers current trends in child support policy and enforcement and includes summaries of state legislation, news articles, the latest research and information on upcoming events and resources related to child support. The digest is part of a larger child support project at NCSL funded by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.
This issues features information about NCSL's 2014 Legislative Summit, technical assistance capabilities, recent Child Support Project publications, 2014 legislation so far, and reports on workforce programs for child support populations and teen pregnancy prevention, along with news and highlights from the states.
For previous editions of the Child Support Digest visit our Child Support Digest Index
For more information on the Child Support Project and the project's research publications, visit the Child Support Homepage
NCSL will host the 2014 Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, Minn., Aug. 19-22. The Legislative Summit is the nation's largest gathering of legislators and legislative staff. Included in the lineup of great workshops is an issue forum entitled, “Keeping the American Dream Alive.” The session will focus on how states are using new research that quantifies the effects of poverty on brain development to find new ways to tackle this complex problem.
For more information about NCSL's 2014 Legislative Summit, visit the Summit Homepage or CLICK TO REGISTER
NCSL’s Child Support Project is committed to providing state legislatures technical assistance in the area of child support policy. Depending upon the needs and interests of states, NCSL can provide up-to-date information about new approaches to collecting and enforcing child support and can assist state legislatures in planning, research and policy analysis. Such technical assistance can take the form of on-site visits to the state, but can include conference calls or other virtual/technological formats. Technical assistance is provided by NCSL staff, and can include state agency officials, child support experts, and other stakeholders identified by the state.
For more information about the project,email Meghan McCann or by phone (303-856-1404), or Rochelle Finzel, (303-856-1552).
Child Support 101 is a compilation of online documents that explain the child support process and services. It is divided into three areas: child support basics, enforcement and family-centered services. The first series, Child Support 101, offers information about state child support administration and child support basics.
The second series, Child Support 101.2 was recently posted and features a collection of documents explaining the many aspects of and options for enforcement of child support including locating parents, establishing paternity, establishing and modifying orders, collecting and distributing support, enforcing orders and monitoring enforcement.
Visit the Child Support 101: Table of Contents to access the full compilation.
State legislatures have been actively debating many child support and family law proposals. NCSL's Child Support Project is tracking nearly 950 bills from 46 states and the District of Columbia in the Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database. A few trends are emerging as many states begin to wrap up their 2014 sessions.
Enforcement continues to be an important topic for state legislators. There are 20 bills addressing income withholding, 25 bills addressing licenses, both professional and recreational, and 20 bills dealing with interception of lottery and gambling winnings and tax returns. In addition to enforcement policy, legislatures are continuing to deal with custody and visitation issues. Grandparent custody and visitation is the topic of 35 bills while deployed parents’ custody and visitation rights is covered by at least 30 bills. Two more states (New Mexico and South Dakota) have enacted the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act while New York introduced a bill that would allow members of the National Guard or Reserves to modify their child support orders if their income from a civilian job has been interrupted by deployment. Check out NCSL's Military Parent Custody and Visitation page for up-to-date information on what states are doing to support military parents and families.
Some states are addressing issues related to family relationships and economic stability. At least four legislatures are tackling the issue of whether families receiving public assistance benefits will receive a portion of their child support, known as pass-through and disregard policies. Illinois, California, Washington and Massachusetts have all introduced bills that will increase the amount of money passed through to the family to $100 a month for a family with one child or $200 for a family with two or more children. Also, Maryland introduced a bill that would create a task force to study the use of pass-through policies and whether the state should adopt a pass-through or disregard policy.
A handful of states are looking at establishing a collaborative family law process, while others are providing parental education courses to both divorcing couples and teens in an effort to reduce the need for child support enforcement. South Carolina and others are seeking to help noncustodial parents afford their child support obligations through employment training and placement programs. New Jersey introduced a bill to create the New Jersey Council on Responsible Fatherhood and the Responsible Fatherhood Fund.
To view child support and family law legislation from 2012 through 2014, visit our Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database.
In October 2011, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) provided grants to five states to design employment programs that would increase employment and child support payments. As a result, the Center for Policy Research and the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Child Support Division, operated a two year strategic planning project to design an effective workforce program for unemployed and underemployed noncustodial parents in the child support system. The strategic planning efforts led to the promulgation of a toolkit for workforce programs serving child support populations in addition to creating a successful application for Tennessee’s participation in the National Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration Project (CSPED). The toolkit was designed not just for Tennessee, but for use nationally.
For more information about the “Integrating Workforce Strategies with Child Support Services” strategic planning project, visit the Center for Policy Research site.
The toolkit that was the product of the strategic planning project is a “step-by-step guide to establishing a workforce program for unemployed or underemployed, low-income noncustodial parents in the child support system.” It is divided into multiple sections addressing the various considerations when implementing a workforce program including referral, enrollment and retentions, employment services, child support services, the role of the court, fatherhood services, co-parenting services, and domestic violence considerations. These considerations involve collaboration between many programs including workforce and child support programs.
To access the full “Toolkit on Workforce Programs for Child Support Populations,” visit the Center for Policy Research website.
A recent State Legislatures magazine article focused on the declining rate of teen pregnancy across the country. The teen birth rate decreased by 50 percent since 1991. Some states are using evidence-based approaches such as "programs that help youth wait to have sex or use contraceptives consistently," while other states are using legislation and state funding to "integrate teen pregnancy prevention efforts in foster care, education, juvenile justice, economic development and other state plans."
One program highlighted is Wyoming's Father Factor, a non-profit based in Cheyenne that works with fathers, including teen fathers. The program offers counseling, legal services, child support and family planning services using federal TANF funds designated for father engagement programs. Fatherhood programs have been shown to be a catalyst for increased involvement of fathers in the lives of their children and, thus, increased child support collections.
For more information about teen pregnancy legislation, visit NCSL's Teen Pregnancy Prevention page.
New parent accountability court to help those behind on child support, March 2, 2014 – The Walton County, Ga., parent accountability court takes a problem-solving approach to collecting delinquent child support. The court focuses on “helping parents overcome barriers to meeting their payment obligations.” CONTINUE
Child support agencies instruct teens on pregnancy realities, March 5, 2014 – Wood County Child Support Agency, along with other child support agencies throughout Wisconsin, has adopted a program to educate junior high and high school students about the difficulties of raising kids while in school. The effort is designed to reduce teen pregnancies and the need for child support enforcement against high school graduates starting college. The program is designed after a successful program in Adams County where the Child Support Agency gave presentations to eighth graders as part of the required personal development class. Prior to these programs, Adams County had the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the state. After four years, the county has dropped to 14th. CONTINUE
Parenting and Paternity Awareness (p.a.p.a.) – The Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division offers an education curriculum designed for high school students and young adults. The curriculum focuses on “the importance of father involvement, the value of paternity establishment, the legal realities of child support, the financial and emotional challenges of single parenting, benefits of both parents being involved in a child’s life, healthy relationship skills, and relationship violence prevention.” CONTINUE
Child support: Nonpaying parents may get job help, March 8, 2014 - The Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency in Ohio is seeking to assist noncustodial parents in order to increase the county’s 65 percent collection rate on its 74,000 cases. The new program, Catalyst, is the second phase of a project designed to assist unemployed, noncustodial parents who have new support orders. The program will work with parents to put together a “seek-work plan,” and then refer them to nonprofit organizations for job training, coaching and placement assistance. An estimated 150 unemployed parents are expected to be enrolled. CONTINUE
Rep. Conroy Files Bill to Strengthen Child Support Laws, March 4, 2014 – State Representative Deb Conroy of Villa Park, Illinois, has introduced House Bill 5641 which would create felony criminal penalties for delinquent child support obligors who are financially able to make the payments. Illinois does not currently impose criminal charges on those who are delinquent on their child support obligations. CONTINUE
Child support amnesty program gives offenders chance to catch up, March 5, 2014 – The Friend of the Court for Cheboygan County, Mich., has launched an amnesty program that could resolve 80 arrest warrants for unpaid child support. The program hopes that face-to-face contact with child support obligors to set up a plan for future payments will increase payments, encourage parents to find employment and free up legal fees usually used to try offenders. CONTINUE
Two bills favorable to noncustodial parents advance in Oklahoma House, March 26, 2014 – Senate Bill 1784 from Senator Kim David “would allow family court judges leeway in suspending or revoking professional licenses of parents who are in arrears on child support payments.” Also, Senate Bill 1612 by Senator Ron Sharp “would allow noncustodial parents to seek relief from child support payments if a custodial parent refuses to comply with visitation orders.” CONTINUE
New Indiana law boosts possible prison time for repeatedly failing to pay child support, March 28, 2014 – Under the new law signed by Governor Mike Pence, repeat criminal nonsupport offenders could face a sentence of one to eight years depending on when the offense occurred and whether it was a first offense or not. The bill repealed the prior law requiring a dollar limit of $15,000 before such a sentence could be imposed. The goal of the bill is an incentive to noncustodial parents to pay child support in order to avoid jail time. The law has received both support and criticism. CONTINUE
Imperial County Child Support Services offers ‘Road to Success’ license release program for month of March, Feb. 26, 2014 – The Imperial County Department of Child Support Services in California offered a limited opportunity for parents owing back child support to have their licenses reinstated. If the parent provided current income information, picture identification, one current child support payment, and a $25 payment on arrears, his license would be released. The program ran through the month of March. CONTINUE
Pizza Box Top Fliers Result in $20,000 Surge in Child Support Collections, April 7, 2014 – Hopkins County, Kentucky, saw a “slam dunk” $20,000 increase in child support collections in the month of March due to its “March Mania” program that put most-wanted child support offender fliers on pizza boxes. Taking advantage of college basketball’s March Madness, the Hopkins county attorney’s office worked with four local pizza places to put information about people with outstanding warrants for child support on the pizza boxes. CONTINUE
Learning how to navigate the Child Support System, March 15, 2014 - The Social Development Commission and My Father’s House held a free financial wellness workshop focused on child support. The workshop demonstrated how to effectively use Milwaukee County Child Support Services, how to understand orders, and how to modify orders. CONTINUE
Fathers can lower their children’s risk of going hungry by staying involved, April 4, 2014 – A new article in Social Service Review, citing a study Rutgers University, states that noncustodial father involvement with his children can reduce food insecurity in early and middle childhood. This involvement could come in the form of "time spent, gifts, treats, groceries, medical or childcare expenses." These extra support efforts are outside of and in addition to the traditional child support system. CONTINUE
Changing the culture of child support enforcement, April 9, 2014 – Twice a year the Mecklenburg County Child Support Enforcement program in North Carolina holds an orientation program for fathers who are new to the child support system and have not yet had paternity established. The orientation includes legal education, DNA testing and employment assistance. The orientation held in April 2014, as part of the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative, included volunteers from the child support program, the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, The Children’s Home Society, as well as a local attorney. The overall goal of the orientations is to change the perception of child support enforcement as an adversarial system and increase participation in the program by noncustodial fathers. CONTINUE
A break on child support: Interest rates on late payments to be cut in half starting April 1, March 17, 2014 – As part of Wisconsin’s 2013-2015 budget, the state cut the amount people must pay in interest on child support arrears from 12 percent annually to 6 percent. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, parents owed approximately $5.2 billion in past-due child support, with interest accounting for $2 billion of that. The goal of this legislation, according to the Department of Children and Families, is to increase child support collection and reduce child support debt, while reducing custodial parent reliance on government assistance. CONTINUE
DHHS considers changing how personal questions are asked on MaineCare online forms, Feb. 20, 2014 – Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing its Medicaid application to determine if it is necessary to inquire about whether the child was conceived in Maine and why an absent parent left the home. The department’s response to criticism over the questions has been that the information is necessary if there is a dispute over child support or paternity that may affect Medicaid benefits. Maine is the only state that asks these questions on the Medicaid application. The department does not intend to remove the questions, but may offer a better explanation of why the questions are asked and change the wording. CONTINUE
Judge denies NJ teen’s request for child support from estranged parents, March 5, 2014 – A Morristown, New Jersey, Superior Court Judge denied Rachel Canning’s request for $624 a week in child support and access to her college fund in favor of working to bring the family back together. The judge also refused the request on grounds that he did not want to set a precedent where teens can sue their parents whenever there is a conflict. CONTINUE
Marin Child Support Services Earns Top Honors, Feb. 13, 2014 – The California Department of Child Support Services presented annual awards to child support agencies that meet or exceed performance goals. Marin County met all of the department’s strategic plan goals including establishing paternity for all children born out of wedlock and setting support orders for 97 percent of its cases. CONTINUE
$3 million of child support collected in 2013, Feb. 19, 2014 – The Department of Human Services in Morgan County, Colo., collected more than $3 million in child support in 2013. The director of the department presented to the Board of Morgan County Commissioners who approved the cost of an attorney to work on child support collections as required by federal law. CONTINUE
Michigan Attorney General touts program that’s recovered $155 million in delinquent child support, Feb. 19, 2014 – Michigan’s attorney general announced that the Child Support Division has helped recover $155 million in delinquent child support payments for 12,500 parents. The program within the attorney general’s office was created to help counties with less resources and shorter reach than the office pursue delinquent child support obligors. Since the office became involved with the child support enforcement program, $15 billion has been collected, with $1.3 of that just last year. CONTINUE
Review finds state’s child support collection efforts improved, April 8, 2014 – The Maryland Department of Human Resources will receive an additional $100,000 from the legislature after a legislative audit review found an improvement in the collection of child support. The improved tactics resulted in a record $549 million in court-ordered child support payments, making Maryland among the top 10 states in percentage of past-due child support payments collected. Maryland previously ranked 26th. Efforts include linking parents to job opportunities, training and education. In addition, the agency works with other agencies on allowing the suspension of occupational licenses. Also, through the Non-custodial Parent Employment Program, 17,551 enrollees have collectively paid $97 million in child support payments. CONTINUE
Sperm donor asks Supreme Court to block his genetic testing, March 21, 2014 – The Kansas sperm donor who was ordered to pay child support has appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court to block genetic testing of him and the four-year old girl born as a result of the sperm donation. He has also asked the court to determine if genetic testing is in the best interests of the girl. CONTINUE
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