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.
This issue features information about child support and domestic violence, our child support and family law legislation database, child support assurance and employment services for noncustodial parents.
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
Questions? Contact Meghan McCann
Each year, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement releases a preliminary report to Congress detailing 50-state data on numerous child support measures. The FY 2017 Preliminary Report to Congress, released earlier this year, shows that states collected more than $32 billion dollars on behalf of the 15.1 million children served by child support enforcement programs across the country. While collections and caseloads trended slightly downward, the cost-effectiveness of the program remained high with $5.15 being collected for every dollar spent on the program.
Check out NCSL’s new State-by-State Child Support Data for a 50-state breakdown of total distributed collections, total arrearages, amount of current support due, total caseload and total administrative expenditures over the past four years.
In the United States, 1 in 4 parents live in poverty, and 20 percent of children live in a household with income below the federal poverty level. A new approach to help families break the cycle of poverty is taking hold in states across the country. Called many things, from two-generation and intergenerational, to multi-generational or whole-family approaches, the idea of addressing the needs of children and parents is the same.
Earlier this year, NCSL released a Two-Generation Strategies Toolkit to help state legislators understand the issues two-generation approaches can address, what the programs look like on the ground, the important role legislators play, and the opportunities for state legislators to engage in these efforts. Because child support impacts both children and parents, it’s an ideal program to implement with a two-generation approach.
The federal Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration Program Grants awarded to eight states in 2012 encourage two-generation approaches by funding employment programs and assistance with child support compliance. Participating states are showing increases in employment, child support payments and parent engagement with their children. NCSL’s toolkit highlights the Colorado Parent Employment Project (CO-PEP), which connects noncustodial parents to fatherhood programs and workforce services. After six months, 74 percent of participants were employed, having entered the program un- or under-employed. During the same period, 79 percent of participants paid some child support after receiving services, compared to 57 percent prior to receiving services.
For more information about implementing two-generation strategies, download NCSL’s Two-Generation Strategies Toolkit.
NCSL’s Child Support Project manages a clearinghouse of information related to child support and family law issues. Here are some additional resources that may be of interest:
In 2011, more than 23 million U.S. children lived with just one parent, and by 2013 the unwed birthrate was approximately 40 percent. These changing demographics have important consequences for both child support and parenting time orders.
The legal process for married versus unmarried parents compounds the issue. Married parents generally can address both parenting time and child support orders in the same proceeding and in one order—the divorce decree. For unmarried parents, the process is more complicated, in part because they are not required to go to court to end their relationship. For unmarried parents to access the child support and parenting time process, they must voluntarily go to court, often following two distinct legal processes.
While many states allow for child support to be adjusted based on the amount of time each parent spends with their child, most child support orders established by the public child support system do not include a corresponding parenting time order or arrangement. The primary reason is that Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, which governs the public child support enforcement system, does not allow the expenditure of federal funds for the establishment or negotiation of parenting time arrangements.
States continue to seek ways to address the intersection of child support and parenting time. Texas and Florida provide a standard parenting time order detailing the schedule of parenting time for each parent. This order will be set alongside a child support order unless the parents agree otherwise.
Oregon recently implemented an Interactive Parenting Plan (IPP), which allows parents engaged with the child support system to obtain parenting time orders without having to initiate a separate and legally distinct court proceeding. Early analysis by the Center for Policy Research revealed high marks for ease of use and satisfaction with the results. More research will be conducted once the program is fully implemented.
For more, visit NCSL’s Child Support and Parenting Time page.
“Father engagement is inextricably linked to strengthening families ... .” So says an information memorandum from Lynn A. Johnson, the recently appointed assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families.
The memo details how the Administration for Children and Families has, and will continue to, support father engagement in the lives of their children while encouraging healthy relationships with the other parent. From child welfare, courts and child support programs, to child care and public assistance agencies, the memo explains the role that each program can play to support healthy relationships and responsible fatherhood.
In addition to this call for father engagement, a 2018 report from the Fatherhood Research & Practice Network, State Approaches to Including Fathers in Program and Policies Dealing with Children and Families, looks at federally financed and supported programs, as well as state initiatives to encourage father engagement. The report highlights statewide fatherhood commissions in Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois and Ohio, as well as state human services agencies that have embedded fatherhood into practice in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, South Carolina and Texas. Several of these programs, including those in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, South Carolina and Texas, are within the child support program and include workforce and employment services for fathers.
The previous issue of NCSL’s Child Support Digest addressed child support cooperation requirements. These requirements ensure that applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits cooperate with child support enforcement as a condition of receiving benefits.
While states must require TANF applicants to cooperate with child support enforcement, they have the option of extending this requirement to other public assistance programs, including child care assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP). A new report, Child Support Cooperation Policy, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), looks at these policies across the country, and the potential reach to noncustodial parents not currently participating in a child support program.
Since the release of that report, ASPE has released a companion infographic, and a report discussing what the extension of these policies might look like. The infographic shows the number of people eligible for SNAP and child care assistance who also have child support orders. This ultimately shows the number of people who could be impacted by an extension of the child support cooperation requirements. An accompanying report flushes out the infographic and discusses policy considerations for states, including who should be subject to cooperation requirements, under what circumstances people should be exempt from cooperation, and what the penalty is for non-cooperation. Along with these policy considerations come questions about systems capacity and implementation challenges.
For more on state legislation addressing child support cooperation requirements, visit NCSL’s Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database.