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
Child support and family law were again important topics for state governments in 2018. States enacted just over 150 of the more than 850 bills that were up for consideration. These bills addressed a variety of issues, including custody and visitation, economic stability, enforcement, family violence prevention collaborations, child support guidelines, health care coverage, healthy family relationships, implementation and administrative requirements placed on state agencies, parentage and other family law issues.
Through a partnership with the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, the NCSL tracks introduced and enacted child support and family law legislation in our Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database. Below is a summary of laws considered and enacted in 2018.
Illinois enacted a three-year pilot project requiring school districts to include curriculum on family structure, function and management, child support, and prevention of child abuse in existing health and wellness education courses.
Seventeen states introduced legislation related to custody and visitation issues, including shared custody and custody and visitation for grandparents and military parents. Kentucky created a presumption that joint custody and equal parenting time is in the best interest of the child, Minnesota allowed joint custody petitions to be filed by unmarried parents, and South Dakota detailed the factors to be considered when setting a joint custody order. Virginia and Wyoming took a different approach and passed legislation stating there is no presumption in favor of any form of custody, including joint custody.
Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico and Washington passed legislation addressing grandparent custody and visitation. This legislation addressed access for grandparent visitation and supports and resources to grandparents who are raising grandchildren. New Mexico’s legislation created a task force to study and make recommendations on supporting grandparents raising grandchildren.
Florida is the latest state to enact the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA). The UDPCVA provides the definitions and procedures for custody and visitation when a parent is deployed or on active duty. See NCSL's Military Parent Custody and Visitation Page for more about the UDPCVA and state legislation to address parent deployment.
Seven states enacted legislation to improve the economic outlook for noncustodial parents. The legislation focuses primarily on fees paid for child support services. Connecticut and North Carolina increased the fee from $25 to $35 for cases where the state collects at least $550 in one year. Oklahoma required legislative approval for any new or increased fee for child support services. Louisiana requested the Department of Children and Family Services study the use, assessment and collection of the expedited process fee paid by parents who owe child support.
With 32 enacted bills from 16 states, child support enforcement was the most common topic for enacted legislation across the country in 2018. The biggest trends in child support enforcement legislation were related to parental incarceration for establishing and modifying child support, and requirements that applicants of public assistance programs cooperate with child support enforcement. Income and asset withholding and intercepts, as well as legislation addressing the suspension or revocation of driver’s and other licenses, were also frequent topics of legislation.
Since the adoption of the federal Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement Rule in December 2016, states have been amending child support laws related to incarcerated parents. Specifically, states have been clarifying that incarceration may not be treated as voluntary unemployment and have been creating procedures for modifying or suspending child support while a parent is incarcerated. In 2018, Georgia, Indiana and Nebraska passed legislation prohibiting incarceration from being treated as voluntary unemployment. Indiana, Louisiana and Nebraska created procedures where the modification or suspension of child support can be requested if a noncustodial parent is incarcerated for more than 180 days. Maryland enacted a bill removing a requirement that certain inmates on work-release pay child support while confined in a detention center. West Virginia requires the division of corrections to help inmates develop financial plans to meet child support obligations and requires civil judgments awarded to an inmate be subject to child support enforcement. Visit NCSL’s Child Support and Incarceration page for more discussion.
Federal law requires states to compel Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants, and, in some instances, Medicaid applicants, to cooperate with child support enforcement. States have the option of extending this requirement to other public assistance programs, including child care assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In 2018, three states considered legislation to extend or amend cooperation requirements. Indiana enacted legislation urging its Legislative Council to study cooperation requirements in SNAP and Medicaid programs. A new Missouri law exempts mothers from cooperating with child support enforcement if their child was conceived by sexual assault, and Wisconsin now requires applicants for medical assistance to cooperate with child support. Read the December 2018 issue of NCSL’s Child Support Digest for more discussion and additional resources on this topic.
Marriage age was another hot topic in 2018. Eight states enacted legislation to increase the minimum age of marriage and other states considered acting. States set their new minimum age at different points, often based on where the age was set in prior law. Delaware adopted an absolute prohibition on marriage for individuals under the age of 18 while New Jersey prohibits marriage under age 18 with certain exceptions. Florida, Kentucky, New York and Tennessee designated 17 years of age as the minimum age for marriage. Arizona and New Hampshire capped the minimum age of marriage at 16 years old with certain exceptions.
Other family law bills enacted in 2018 address spousal support and procedures for getting married and divorced. For instance, New Hampshire, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia amended their law regarding the modification or termination of spousal support. California and Idaho changed the licensure requirements for marriage and family therapists, and California added domestic violence to the considerations for modification or termination of spousal support.
Half a dozen states enacted legislation addressing family violence and child custody or parental rights. California and Hawaii enacted legislation creating or amending address confidentiality programs for victims of domestic violence. Louisiana added domestic violence as a factor to be considered when determining child custody and visitation. Ohio extended domestic violence civil protection orders and access to domestic violence shelters to victims of domestic violence in dating relationships. Maryland and Vermont became the latest states to allow termination of parental rights if the child was conceived because of sexual assault. See NCSL’s Parental Rights and Sexual Assault page for information about how other states have addressed these issues.
Eight states enacted more than a dozen bills to amend child support guidelines. Virginia provided various methods for determining child support based on the custody arrangement ordered by the court, including instances of shared, sole and split custody. Several states considered specific calculations. Ohio changed the income schedule within its guidelines, while other states looked at custody adjustments, taxes and other impacts on the calculation of child support. Utah made its Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee an ongoing committee. Visit NCSL’s Child Support Guideline Models by State page for more.
Ten states enacted at least a dozen bills addressing health care coverage within child support orders. Several states addressed the establishment of medical support orders or cash medical support and others aligned the definition of health care coverage with the 2016 federal rule to include private and public health insurance.
At least four states enacted legislation related to healthy family relationships. Iowa and Washington appropriated funds for programs providing parenting education. Kentucky recognized pregnancy help centers, and Florida included incarcerated parents in the case plan discussions for their children.
Ten states enacted legislation regarding the establishment or disestablishment of parentage, and the use of gestational carrier agreements and assisted reproduction. In addition, Vermont and Washington repealed and replaced their Uniform Parentage Act to mirror the latest revisions by the Uniform Law Commission. These changes make the act gender neutral and provide further guidance on parentage in cases of assisted reproduction.
Seven states enacted 11 bills to address implementation and administration of their child support programs. In addition to appropriations, and the establishment of committees and commissions, at least one state addressed fingerprinting for child support employees. Colorado adopted the recommendations of its Child Support Guidelines Commission, including changes to the procedure for setting administrative child support orders. California required its Department of Child Support Services to identify program efficiencies and ways to improve the budgeting process for its child support program.
NCSL manages a clearinghouse of information related to child support and family law issues. Below are additional resources that may be of interest: