By Meghan McCann
Child support and family law were again big topics for state legislatures during the 2015 legislative session.
With about 700 bills up for consideration, 47 states, and several territories, enacted more than 160 bills. The laws addressed various issues, including child support prevention, custody and visitation, economic stability, enforcement, family violence collaboration, fatherhood engagement, guidelines, health care coverage, healthy family relationships, implementation and administration, and other topics including parentage and family law. See NCSL’s 2015 Child Support and Family Law Legislative Enactments for more.
Already in 2016, there are 618 bills up for consideration in issue areas such as:
- Military Parent Custody and Visitation: 11 states have introduced 18 bills regarding military parent custody and visitation. Six of those states have pending legislation to enact the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act, while the rest address various aspects of military parent custody and visitation, including whether the court can consider a parent’s deployment in determining the best interest of the child in custody proceedings. See NCSL’s Military Parent Custody and Visitation page for more.
- Incarcerated Parents: 22 bills from 11 states have been introduced addressing incarcerated parents. Topics include reentry and reunification measures, modification or suspension of child support orders during periods of incarcerations, working while incarcerated or work release, and requirements that inmates be notified about child support modification possibilities during incarceration. See NCSL’s Child Support and Incarceration page for more.
- Parental Right and Sexual Assault: 14 states have introduced 28 bills to allow for the termination of parental rights, or the restriction on parenting time, of parents who are convicted of sexual assault that resulted in the conception of the child. Notably, Utah introduced legislation that specifically requires child support to be ordered, upon the victim’s request, in these situations. See NCSL’s Parental Rights and Sexual Assault page for more.
- Pass-Through and Disregard: Illinois has two pieces of legislation to increase the current $50 pass-through to a policy that would allow for a pass-through of $100 for a family with one child or $200 for a family with two or more children. See NCSL’s Child Support Pass-Through and Disregard Policies page for more.
- Parenting Time and Child Support: Maryland has introduced legislation in 2016 to require the court to consider custody and visitation of the child during child support proceedings, in addition to requiring the Child Support Enforcement Administration to make referrals to the court for purposes of determining custody and visitation.
- Shared Parenting: 26 bills are pending in 15 states to create a presumption in favor of shared or equal parenting time arrangements, provide for gender parity in making custody determinations, or otherwise address the issue of shared parenting time.
- Termination of Child Support: 19 bills from 13 states and Puerto Rico have been introduced to change the age of majority, allow child support to continue beyond the age of majority for children pursuing post-secondary education, prohibit the extension of support, or require certain parameters to be met before the child is entitled to support beyond the age of majority. See NCSL’s Termination of Child Support-Age of Majority page for more.
As evidenced by the number of bills and topics addressed, child support and its related family law policies are on the minds of state legislators across the country. NCSL tracks these issues on a real-time basis in our Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database going back to 2012.
Meghan McCann is a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Children and Families Program. She covers child support, family law, and child welfare policy issues.