Child Support Digest (Volume 1, Number 4)
NCSL Child Support Project
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 and includes summaries of state legislative action, news articles, the latest research and other upcoming events and resources related to child support policy. The digest is part of a larger project on child support enforcement that is funded by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. For previous and future editions, visit our Child Support Digest Index.
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Save the Date
Be part of something big! The NCSL Legislative Summit is the largest gathering of state legislators in the nation. Join us in Atlanta Aug. 12-15. Come to this premier, nonpartisan public policy meeting to discuss critical state issues and to discover new cost-saving solutions. Visit our Summit website to learn about the sessions, to register or make your housing arrangement. The Human Services and Welfare Committee is hosting "Fatherhood and Family Engagement: Supporting Dads and Helping Kids,” on Tuesday, Aug. 13, from 1:30-3 p.m. The session will focus on how economic and cultural shifts have changed family life and the role of fathers. Speakers Joe Jones, founder, president & CEO, Center for Urban Families and Kathryn Edin, professor of public policy and management, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Harvard University, will cover ways states can support dads and facilitate their involvement in their children’s lives. Attendees will learn about successful strategies to promote responsible fatherhood, employment and family involvement.
2012 and 2013 Child Support and Family Law Legislation
2012 Legislative Enactments
Nearly all state legislatures that convened in 2012 addressed child support. Because it is an important source of income for families, legislatures are continuously reviewing and revising statutes.
During the 2012 legislative session,
At least 12 states enacted laws related to locating parents and establishing paternity.
At least 13 states and Guam enacted legislation establishing child support orders (changes to income guidelines, health care coverage, age of majority and child support termination).
At least 28 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico passed laws related to collecting and enforcing child support orders (garnishments, income withholding, lottery and gambling winnings, and professional and driver license suspensions).
At least 15 states passed legislation supporting a family-centered approach (health care coverage; visitation and involvement by noncustodial parents; incarceration and re-entry into the community; military family concerns; and educating teens about child support).
To view 2012 Child Support and Family Law Legislative Enactment Summaries, visit our Web page.
To view summaries specific to the family-centered approach, visit 2012 Family Centered Child Support and Family Law Legislative Enactment Summaries.
An early analysis of 2013 legislation shows that 31 states, DC and Puerto Rico enacted laws. Many states enacted legislation to terminate parental rights in cases where the mother conceived the child from rape, provide rights to deployed military parents and improve processes for employers to withhold income. States also passed many bills changing guideline and custody and visitation procedures.
To view 2013 legislation, visit our database.
In the News
Seeking child support reform in Illinois- Feb. 3, 2013
Two years ago, the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee recommended changes to the way the state calculates child support. The current model Illinois uses is called “percentage of obligatory net income.” Under this model, the noncustodial parent pays a flat percentage of his or her income based on the number of children. The newly proposed “income shares” model looks at each parent's income and considers how much time the noncustodial parent spends with the child. Despite agreeing that there should be a transition to an “income shares” model, the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee, a group whose task is to periodically review the state's child support guidelines, is still in the process of constructing a legislative draft to present to the General Assembly. It was expected to be presented last spring.
Overhaul of child-support payment guidelines advances in Ky. Legislature- Feb. 20, 2013
The Kentucky Legislature advanced a bill (House Bill 169) that would overhaul the state's child support payment guidelines. The current guidelines have not seen major changes since 1987. The figures, used to factor in the spending patterns of an average family, were based on decades-old information that did not account for modern amenities such as cell phones and laptop computers. The changes would provide more timely data on spending patterns of parents and address the state's changing custody patterns. Kentucky child support laws do not account for the increasing number of children who divide their time equally or almost equally between their parents. The legislation says the court may adjust child support payments if there is a shared parenting order that grants one parent physical custody of a child for more than 109 days a year. Update: This bill passed the House, but it failed upon adjournment.
Changes to NJ Child Support Guidelines Would Reflect Tough Times- April 24, 2013
New Jersey has conducted their federally mandated child support guidelines review. The latest changes would be the third major overhaul of the guidelines since they were first adopted in 1986. The amendments would "for the first time capture spending in families over a twelve-year period," from 2000 through 2011, which "encompasses prosperous years, recession years and the current slow recovery years." The new guidelines also consider family outlays as opposed to family expenditures. As a result, mortgage principal payments would be taken into account for the first time.
Casino program nets $806K in back child support- Jan. 30, 2013
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services intercepted more than $806,000 in casino winnings from 599 parents to cover back child support payments. A pilot program was launched in September 2011, netting $1,995 from one noncustodial father two days after its start.
Two big changes could be coming to child support laws- Feb. 14, 2013
Arkansas state Representative Robert Dale introduced two pieces of legislation. In House Bill 1257, noncustodial parents will be mandated to pay all past due child support, regardless of the child's age. With this bill, regardless of time passing, child support will still be required to be paid in full. A second bill (House Bill 1258) was proposed that would increase the amount of money it could garnish from paychecks to pay past-due child support from 20 to 25 percent. Representative Dale said the goal is to help the people of Arkansas and to avoid unintended consequences by increasing the past-due payments. Update: House Bill 1257 was chaptered (Act 317). House Bill 1258 failed upon adjournment.
Ohio child support collections drop: New programs slowing the trend as economy improves- March 10, 2013
Governor John Kasich’s budget proposal tasks Ohio Department of Job and Family Services with increasing collections by $66 million annually to achieve a collection rate of 70 percent. In January, the South Central Ohio Job and Family Services became the first agency to combine services from Ross, Vinton and Hocking counties. Some collection agencies are offering forgiveness programs where the county can waive child support owed to the state of Ohio. A debt reduction was offered in some cases in exchange for volunteer hours. Agencies can suspend an individual’s driver’s recreational or professional license for failing to pay child support, but agencies consider whether suspensions would improve child support collections or deter them. Ottawa County received a federal grant to establish a neutral visitation location for parents who must pay child support and can see their children; the idea is parents who are in contact with their children are more likely to pay child support.
W.Va. Senate eases punishment for not paying child support- April 2, 2013
Senate Bill 624 would ease the punishments for knowingly failing to pay child support. Currently, if a parent knowingly fails to pay child support for a year, it can become a felony offense, bringing the parent a sentence of one to three years in prison. The bill passed by the Senate would change the crime to a misdemeanor and change the punishment to home confinement. The bill mandates that anyone sentenced to home confinement must find a job or register with Workforce West Virginia for job training. Although the punishments are more lenient, unpaid child support would become a criminal offense after six months rather than after one year. The bill was sparked by a discussion in the Senate Committee on Child Poverty in March. The bill institutes graduated sentencing so that a second offense would be a misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in jail, and a third offense would be a felony with a minimum of one year in prison. Update: Senate Bill 624 failed upon adjournment.
Governor Signs Community Service for Child Support Bill- April 17, 2013
Oklahoma Governor Fallin signed into law a measure that officials hope will encourage parents to stay up to date on their child support payments. House Bill 2166, by Representative Jon Echols and Senator Brian Crain, authorizes courts to require individuals who are willingly unemployed and who owe child support to work two eight-hour-days per week in a community service program administered by the county commissioners. Oklahoma County’s SHINE community service program inspired the legislation. House Bill 2166 passed overwhelmingly out of both chambers of the Legislature, including votes of 97-1 in the House and 47-1 in the Senate.
Bill mandating paternity tests in all custody- April 16, 2013
The Louisiana House Civil Law and Procedure Committee temporarily shelved House Bill 459, which would require the state to perform paternity tests before ordering fathers to pay child support. The Department of Child and Family Services, which performs paternity tests when fatherhood is contested during a child support proceeding, spoke out against the bill, stating that fatherhood was established in more than 27,000 cases using means other than genetic testing, including birth certificates, voluntary acknowledgement and adjudication. Paternity tests were ordered in fewer than 4,500 cases. If the agency had to order tests in all 31,500 cases, it could cost more than $4 million annually. Committee Vice Chair Nancy Landry said the bill posed some "pretty serious consequences" to the state adding that under current law, a man who signs a birth certificate acknowledges that he is the presumptive father of the child. Update: House Bill 459 is pending.
Efforts to collect child support in some cases could stop- April 30, 2013
Minnesota House File 1470 would allow cases to be closed where there is no current order for support but the debt owed is under $500; three years have passed; and all tools to collect support have been used or attempted with no indication of any ability to obtain future collection. The bill, sponsored by Representative Rena Moran, passed the House 72-56. Prior to discontinuing services, there would need to be notification to the party owing the child support and the recipient of the plan to close the case. It could be reopened if the person who receives child support provides information that could lead to collection. Update: House File 1470 is pending and will carry over to the 2014 legislative session.
Changes to Child Support Payment Methods- Feb. 20, 2013
The Nevada Child Support Enforcement Program is offering new online and telephone payment options. Beginning March 4, 2013, obligors may make child support payments 24 hours a day and 7 days a week by debit card, electronic check, or credit card using self-service internet or telephone payment processing. Offering electronic payment options will help parents meet their child support obligations timely and speed the delivery of funds to families.
Miss. House passes bill allowing private contracts for child support collection- April 2, 2013
The Mississippi House after much debate narrowly passed a measure to allow the Department of Human Services to hire private companies to collect child support payments. A House-Senate agreement on House Bill 1009 passed 62-57, but was held on a motion that could allow more debate. Supporters say the move would help DHS collect unpaid child support, which totaled about $3 million last year. Update: House Bill 1009 was chaptered (Chapter 515).
Move to cut interest on overdue child support- April 8, 2013
The Wisconsin governor's 2013-15 budget proposes cutting the annual interest rate charged on child support arrears from 12 percent to 6 percent as part of a pilot program to attempt to get more child support paid back. The budget proposes cutting the interest rate from January 2014 to June 30, 2015. The legislature could extend it. The idea is that this will benefit families who receive child support because research shows noncustodial parents are more likely to make payments toward their child support debt when the government reduces interest rates.
LaValle Bill: Split Child Support Payment Fee Equitably- May 1, 2013
The New York State Senate passed legislation (Senate Bill 783) by Senator Kenneth P. LaValle that will split fees on child support payments between the custodial and noncustodial parent. The entire fee is now borne by the custodial parent. The fee is collected after the custodial parent has received $500 in support payments for the year, after which the federal government keeps two-thirds of the fee and the state and local governments keep the rest. States were given a choice as to how to collect the fee. New York chose to collect the fee from the parent who receives the support payments. The goal of this legislation is to divide the collection of the fee between the custodial and noncustodial parent. The bill will now be sent to the Assembly. Update: Senate Bill 783 is still pending.
Stanislaus program to help parents find work to pay child support- Feb. 12, 2013
A federally funded program in Stanislaus County (Calif.) will attempt to increase child support collections by helping noncustodial parents find steady employment. The county's Department of Child Support Services will work with the Alliance Worknet on the five-year demonstration project supported by $2.32 million in federal funds. Besides job assistance, participants could receive fatherhood training or other counseling to get them more involved with their children. For the pilot program, officials will choose out-of-work people with an employment history from the caseload of adults who owe child support. The program will provide assistance to overcome barriers to employment, such as prior drug use, a history of domestic violence or other issues that keep people from holding jobs. The Alliance Worknet will assess participants' job skills and develop an employment plan, which could include job training. The alliance can use Workforce Investment Act funds to subsidize wages during on-the-job training. At the close of the 60-month project, an independent review will evaluate how many participants are working and making child support payments compared with a control group of noncustodial parents who received no job assistance.
Family Violence Collaboration
Proposed Pennsylvania bill would prevent rape victims from choosing between rapist's parental rights, child support- Feb. 25, 2013
Under Pennsylvania law, if a woman bears a child from rape, she can ask a judge to end the rapist father's parental rights such as custody or visitation. If she does so, under a loophole in the law, the woman would surrender her ability to collect child support from the father. State Representative Mike Schlossberg hopes to change that by introducing a bill that would let a rape victim terminate parental right and still receive child support. State law allows a parent to petition for involuntary termination of parental rights in several cases, including if the parent is the father of a child conceived from rape or incest. As the domestic relations law currently reads, if that father's parental rights are terminated, his child support obligations also end. Update: House Bill 836 is still pending.
Fatherhood Re-Entry Support Group Gains Recognition- April12, 2013
The Talbot County (Maryland) Department of Social Services Young Fathers/Non-Custodial Parents Employment Program launched the Inside Out Dad curriculum through its outreach with the Talbot County Department of Corrections. Initiated in 2010, this program teaches employment readiness, financial management and personal effectiveness. Over the last two years, 45 fathers have participated in the program. Because of the program, several fathers requested that the department form a Re-Entry Support Group. Membership in the group requires that the dads participate in the Inside Out Dad Program while incarcerated, attend two consecutive meetings of the support group, remain drug and alcohol free, be employed or enrolled in school full time, have no subsequent criminal charges and attempt to engage in the lives of their children. In addition to its regular meetings, the support group has held family-centered events.
Census Bureau Links Poverty With Out-of-Wedlock Births- May 6, 2013
Research released by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey says states with a higher percentage of out-of-wedlock births in 2011 tended to have a higher incidence of poverty. The American Community Survey found that 36 percent of the 4.1 million women who gave birth in the U.S. that year were unmarried, up from 31 percent in 2005. Nationwide, African-American women reported the highest rate of out-of-wedlock births, at 67.8 percent. American Indian or Alaska Native women reported a 64 percent rate, while Hispanics reported 43 percent and non-Hispanic whites reported 26 percent. Asian-Americans reported the lowest rate of out-of-wedlock births, at 11.3 percent. Data revealed a significant link between income and out-of-wedlock births. Of women making less than $10,000 who gave birth in the previous year, 68.9 percent were not married. That statistic dropped progressively going up the household income ladder, with a 9 percent rate for households earning more than $200,000 a year. Younger women who gave birth were also more likely not to be married. According to last week's report, up to 40 percent of all children will live in a cohabiting household by age 12.
NCSL can provide technical assistance to legislatures on child support policy topics. Contact Rochelle Finzel.
NCSL Webinar Recordings
Child Support 101
Vicki Turetsky, Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) commissioner, explained the basics of child support, how it works and how child support affects overall child well-being and former state Representative Linda Gray, Arizona, explained her experience with child support legislation and policy. Visit Child Support 101 Webinar to view the archived webinar or the webinar PowerPoint.
Military Families & Child Support Custody and Visitation
Michael Hayes, Deputy for Family Initiatives, Texas Child Support Division, explained Texas’ "HEROES for Children in Military Families" program and Dan Savage, Deputy Project Manager, covered El Paso County, Colorado’s child support military liaisons. The webinar also addressed child support concerns for military families and custody issues for deployed or deploying military personnel. Visit Military Families & Child Support Custody and Visitation view the archived webinar.
NCSL Child Support Resources:
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 promicing practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legisalture 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 email@example.com.
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., Joy Johnson Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Rachel Morgan (email@example.com) can be reached at (202) 624-5400.
The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Standing Committee on Health & Human Services.