Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) Final Rules Governing Child Support Enforcement Programs



parent and child holding handsIn December 2016, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) completed the first comprehensive update to its final rules in 35 years. The OCSE further amended this final rule with technical corrections in June 2020. Executive Order 13563 was issued in January 2011 and directed agencies to increase their analysis of existing rules to determine whether they should be amended in any way to improve the agency’s regulatory program to make it more effective or less burdensome while achieving objectives.

As a result, OCSE conducted a comprehensive review of its regulations. The resulting regulatory improvements include (1) procedures to promote program flexibility, efficiency, and modernization, (2) updates to account for advances in technology and (3) technical corrections.

These changes were made to strengthen the Child Support Enforcement program and update current practices in order to increase regular, on-time payments to all families, increase the number of noncustodial parents working and supporting their children, and reduce the accumulation of unpaid child support.

The changes are intended to remove barriers to cost-effective approaches for improving enforcement. In addition, given that almost three-fourths of child support payments are collected by employers through income withholding, the rule standardizes and streamlines payment processing to lessen employer burdens. The rule also removes barriers to electronic communication and document management, and updates the program to reflect the Supreme Court decision in Turner v. Rogers.

Impact on States

Child support agencies will need to take steps to determine the factual basis for support obligations through case conferencing, interviews, questionnaires, and other strategies to ensure a child support order is “based on the noncustodial parent’s earnings, income, and other evidence of ability to pay.” They will need to gather information regarding the earnings and income of the noncustodial parents, and when this information is unavailable, obtain information on the specific circumstances of the noncustodial parent. Also, imputing income will need to be done on a case-by-case basis when there is an evidentiary gap.

The rule makes various changes related to the intersection between child support and incarceration. As mentioned above, the rule shores up the due process requirements from Turner v. Rogers, by providing guidance on the factors to be considered when determining which cases should be referred to the court for civil contempt, including a determination of the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay. The rule also prohibits state child support programs from treating incarceration as voluntary unemployment, which will open up the possibility of modifying child support orders during periods of incarceration. See NCSL's Child Support and Incarceration page for more.

States must revise their child support guidelines to meet the requirements of the rule changes within one year after completion of the state’s first quadrennial review of its child support guidelines that begins more than one year after publication of the final rule.

Final Rule Resources

The Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Programs final rule was published on Dec. 20, 2016, in the Federal Register, Volume 81, Number 244, on page 93492.

The Child Support amended final rule was published on June 9, 2020 in the Federal Register, Volume 85, Number 111, on page 35201.

Additional Resources