Child Support Digest, Volume 6, Number 1

NCSL Resources

Child Support and Domestic Violence

For domestic violence victims with children, child support payments can be a critical source of financial stability. Child support is one of the only human services programs that involves both custodial and noncustodial parents and has a unique role in reducing the risk of violence and helping survivors achieve economic independence. The intersection between domestic violence and child support is an important, yet often overlooked, issue. More than 90 percent of women who have experienced domestic violence would pursue child support if they could do so safely. Yet research shows that establishing, collecting and enforcing child support orders can all be triggers for increased domestic violence.

NCSL’s November 2017 policy brief, “Child Support and Domestic Violence,” details the intersection between child support and domestic violence and the various policy levers that can be used to protect victims while also providing financial support to dependent children.

Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database

Child support and family law were big topics for state legislatures in 2017. Nearly 900 bills were up for consideration in all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico, resulting in enactment of nearly 160 bills. Again, in 2018, more than 800 bills are being considered.

These bills address a variety of issues, including custody and visitation, economic stability, enforcement, family violence collaboration, guidelines, health care coverage, healthy family relationships, parentage and implementation and administration requirements placed on agencies.

NCSL tracks introduced and enacted child support and family law legislation in a searchable Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database. Visit the database for bill text, summaries and more.

Updated NCSL Resources

NCSL’s Child Support Project manages a clearinghouse of information related to child support and family law issues. Here are some recently updated resources:

National Reports and Resources

Child Support Assurance

The American Enterprise Institute, in its latest Poverty and Social Policy Debate Series, took up the issue of child support assurance. Child support assurance, in this context, is a government guarantee of a minimum monthly child support payment for children.

Child support assurance policies, as proposed in the debate, would have three common elements:

  1. A minimum child support payment per child.
  2. A maximum child support obligation for nonresident parents (e.g., no more than 33 percent of income).
  3. A public guarantee to bridge the gap when the nonresident parent cannot reasonably pay the minimum support amount.

Those in favor of child support assurance policies argue that a consistent and guaranteed support payment to children could reduce child poverty and economic insecurity. Those opposed argue that it is another government assistance program that would create a disincentive to work for nonresident parents.

View the full debate for more details on child support assurance, the pros and cons, and where compromise was made.  

Employment Services for Noncustodial Parents

Estimates from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) show that 13 percent of noncustodial parents are unemployed for extended periods of time. States and the federal government have long been interested in and have recently renewed their focus on, workforce and employment services to this population.

Two related federal memoranda were recently released from OCSE and the Office of Family Assistance (OFA), both within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The memos address how states can leverage existing child support incentive funds and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to support employment services for noncustodial parents.

In his memo, OCSE Commissioner Scott Lekan stated “that HHS is eager to grant exemption requests that would allow states to use their incentive payments to provide employment programs for noncustodial parents,” when certain requirements are met. Clarence Carter, director of OFA reminds states that TANF funds may be used to provide employment services to noncustodial parents, in addition to using state maintenance-of-effort funds.

News Across the States