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Child Support Digest Volume 8, Number 1

NCSL’s Summary of 2019 Enacted Legislation

With nearly 750 bills considered in 2019, child support and family law are on the minds of many state lawmakers. These bills address a variety of issues, including custody and visitation, economic stability, enforcement of child support orders, family violence collaboration, child support guidelines, health care coverage in child support orders, administrative requirements and parentage. Of these bills, 139 were enacted in 2019.

Through a partnership with the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, NCSL maintains a publicly available database of child support and family law legislation. Keep reading for a summary of laws introduced and enacted in 2019.

Custody and Visitation

Forty-seven states and Puerto Rico introduced 241 bills addressing custody and visitation in 2019, including grandparent custody and military parent custody. Of those, 32 bills were enacted. Topping the list are bills related to shared parenting, factors to be considered when determining custody, court procedure requirements when a child is being relocated and situations where family violence may be involved.

Economic Stability

In 2019, 22 states introduced 37 bills related to economic stability. Twelve of these bills were enacted. Nineteen of the bills amended the application and annual fees for non-assistance child support to be in line with new federal guidelines. Iowa, Kentucky and Maine were among the 10 states that passed bills amending these fees. Additionally, Oregon passed a bill raising the minimum wage exemption for garnishment and execution.

Child Support Order Enforcement

As in years past, child support enforcement is the most common topic of legislation across the country, with nearly 200 bills from 43 states and Puerto Rico considered in 2019. Topics of enacted legislation include general child support enforcement, child support and incarceration, child support cooperation requirements, interception of certain gambling winnings or tax refunds and license restrictions. Thirty-eight bills from 23 states were enacted.

Family Violence Collaborations

Fifteen states introduced 30 bills on the topic of family violence in 2019, five of which were enacted. Eleven of the bills introduced on this topic concerned terminating parental and visitation rights for those found guilty of sexually violent offenses; four of the five bills enacted addressed this issue. New York enacted a bill requiring that the written rights given to domestic violence victims in court be made available in four specified languages.

Child Support Guidelines

In 2019, 32 states and Puerto Rico introduced 78 bills to update and amend child support guidelines, calculate parenting time and other adjustments to child support guideline amounts and clarify when child support orders terminate. Thirteen bills were enacted. Arkansas and Colorado updated their child support income schedules. Maryland altered its definition of extraordinary medical expenses to include costs for medical treatment in excess of a specified amount in a calendar year. Washington directed its child support agency to prepare a child support review report for the use in the quadrennial review of the state’s child support guidelines.

Health Care Coverage

Four states considered four bills in 2019 addressing health care coverage in child support orders, three of which were enacted. New Hampshire enacted a bill that redefines the medical obligation for child support as the provision of health care coverage, whether in the form of private health insurance or public health care. Maryland revised its definition of “extraordinary medical expenses” related to child support.

Administrative Requirements

Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico introduced 40 bills related to  administrative requirements of their child support programs in 2019. Thirteen bills from 12 states were enacted. In addition to making general appropriations and creating working groups for child support, states considered more specific changes to their administrative systems. Nevada designated funding specifically to modernize the computer software for its child support enforcement program.

Parentage

Sixty-three parentage bills were introduced in 27 states and Puerto Rico in 2019. Fourteen states enacted 18 bills related to parentage. Eight parentage bills enacted in 2019 related to the establishment of paternity. Virginia and New York enacted bills providing for their parentage statues to include gender-neutral language.

For more legislation introduced from 2012 through 2020, visit NCSL’s Child Support and Family Law Legislation Database.

2019 Report on the Effectiveness of Child Support Enforcement Tools

A 2019 report from Mathematica and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service titled An Examination of the Use and Effectiveness of Child Support Enforcement Tools in Six States found that while there is no clear relationship between enforcement tools and collection rates, some tools were more effective than others.

The report looks at both federally mandated enforcement tools and state optional tools and broke them down into three categories: 1) collection tools, including income withholding and tax refund intercepts; 2) compliance tools, including license suspension, passport denials, credit bureau report and other, more punitive tools; and 3) capital-building tools such as employment services for noncustodial parents. It then made the distinction between the willingness and ability to pay child support and the enforcement tools that are most effective. The graphic below illustrates this distinction.

The report suggests that certain enforcement tools may be more effective than others depending on the noncustodial parent’s ability and willingness to pay. As state legislatures and child support programs grapple with how to improve child support compliance, this breakdown of child support enforcement tools and noncustodial parent dynamics may prove useful.

For more information about child support collections in your state, see NCSL’s State-by-State Child Support Data.

Popular NCSL Resources

NCSL manages a clearinghouse of information related to child support and family law issues. Below are some of our most used resources: