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.
Domestic violence is an often-overlooked consideration when discussing child support cooperation agreements and use of such agreements between custodial and noncustodial parents is on the rise. In recent years, states have introduced dozens of bills to expand child support cooperation requirements, engage more noncustodial parents in child support programs and provide more support for children in low-income families.
Federal law requires that all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Medicaid, under most circumstances, cooperate with child support enforcement programs to establish and enforce child support orders. In addition, states have the option of placing cooperation requirements on other programs, such as child care assistance and food stamps. For more on state legislation addressing child support cooperation requirements, visit NCSL’s Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database.
NCSL has information resources to help legislators understand the issues and policy options related to child support and domestic violence. A 2017 brief titled Child Support and Domestic Violence details the intersection between child support and domestic violence and outlines the policy levers that can be used to protect victims while also providing financial support to dependent children. In March, NCSL cohosted a webinar with Mathematica to discuss state policy option, recent state activity related to child support cooperation and the domestic violence implications. Erin Frisch, Title IV-D director for Michigan, discussed Michigan’s longstanding cooperation requirements, and Montana Representative Peggy Webb (R) highlighted legislation she introduced in the 2019 legislation.
In addition, a recent report, Child Support Cooperation Policy, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, looks at these policies across the country, and the potential reach to noncustodial parents not currently participating in a child support program.
Estimates from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement show that 13% of noncustodial parents are unemployed for extended periods of time. In a recent episode of NCSL’s twice-monthly podcast, Our American States, we talk with officials in two states that are successfully addressing the issues and concerns of those who owe child support payments and, as a result, are improving relationships between parents and their children. Larry Desbien, director of Colorado’s Division of Child Support Services discusses how the Colorado Parent Employment Project has been implementing a two-generation approach to noncustodial parent employment and the impressive outcomes that have resulted. Noelita Lugo, assistant deputy director of Field Initiatives for the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division discusses Texas’ Noncustodial Parent Choices program, partnerships with workforce programs across the state and the above average cost-effectiveness of the program.
The podcast can be found on NCSL's website, and on iTunes and Google Play.
NCSL manages a clearinghouse of information related to child support and family law issues. Below are some of our most used resources:
A 2019 report, Independent Contractors and Nontraditional Workers: Implications for the Child Support Program, describes the relationship between the changing workforce and child support. The report from the Office Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and MEF Associates cites a study that suggests 94% of the net employment growth between 2005-2015 was in temporary employment or independent contracting. Another study from the Federal Reserve System estimates that more than 30% of Americans received some income from self-employment or independent contracting in 2017.
With the continued rise of ride- and home-sharing services and other app-based employment, this trend toward 1099 income will continue to impact the workforce, income stability and child support policies. Some states have started reporting independent contractors to their new hire databases. Doing so enables them to withhold child support payments from 1099 earnings. Currently, 16 states and Guam require employers to report the income of independent contractors to their new hire database. The Federal Reserve report also discusses other changes state child support programs are making in response to the changing nature of work.
Every state and territory is required by federal law to establish child support guidelines to use when setting and modifying child support orders. In addition, every four years states are required to review their child support guidelines and, when necessary, adjust the economic formulas.
Some states have established commissions to conduct their quadrennial child support guideline review. Georgia and Colorado are among the states that have ongoing commissions to review child support guidelines and make yearly recommendations to the legislature. Both commissions include members from the executive, judicial and legislative branches, as well as members of the public and other stakeholders.
The Georgia Commission on Child Support completed its third quadrennial review in late 2018 and released a report summarizing the commission’s work over the previous four years. The report included recommendations for legislation, an update on their work to create a child support calculator and a review of the basic child support obligation calculations. Legislation recommended by the commission and adopted by the legislature includes changes to paternity establishment and parenting time deviations and prohibiting incarceration from being treated as voluntary unemployment for purposes of child support modification.
Colorado’s Child Support Commission meets monthly, provides recommendations to the legislature each year, and completes the quadrennial guideline review as required by federal law. In 2019, legislators on the commission introduced House Bill 19-1215 to adopt the recommendations of the commission. This legislation addressed imputed income, changes to the basic support schedule and an increase in fees for child support services. The legislation was signed by Governor Jared Polis (D) in May.