Eighty-two child support and family law bills were enacted in 27 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in 2020. These bills addressed a multitude of issues, including custody and visitation, economic stability, family violence, child support guidelines and orders, administrative requirements, marriage and other family law matters, parentage and health care coverage.
NCSL maintains a database of all introduced child support and family law legislation. A summary of laws enacted by states in 2020 follows.
Custody and Visitation
Twelve states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico enacted 23 bills on custody and visitation in 2020. Bills addressed issues such as custody in the case of child endangerment, minimum parenting time requirements, custody for grandparents and military parents and establishing custody and visitation arrangements that are in the best interest of children. The District of Columbia enacted two bills enabling legal custodians to adjust their parenting plans due to COVID-19 without limiting parental or custodial rights.
Four states enacted bills concerning economic stability as it relates to child support. California extended identity verification method requirements for its CalWORKs program. Washington implemented child support pass-through payments that do not exceed $50 per month collected on behalf of a family, or in the case of a family that includes two or more children, an amount that is not more than $100 per month.
Family Violence Collaboration
In 2020, three states enacted bills to address family violence. California established a rebuttal presumption that awarding child custody to a party that has engaged in coercive control is detrimental to the best interest of the child. Kentucky passed a bill eliminating custody and visitation rights of a person who has committed a felony offense leading to the conception and delivery of a child. Pennsylvania established provisions for when a child is conceived as a result of rape or incest.
Child Support Order Enforcement
Eleven states enacted 22 bills addressing child support enforcement during the 2020 session. Bills spanned topics such as child support and incarceration, prohibiting the issuance of driver’s and professional licenses in cases of delinquency and income withholding to fulfill child support obligations. Louisiana exempted COVID-19 stimulus payments from seizure for child support payments
Marriage and Other Family Law
Seven states enacted nine bills addressing family law in 2020, four of which focused on marriage age. Pennsylvania prohibited the issuance of a marriage license to any parties under the age of 18. Idaho prohibited the contract of marriage between minors and parties above the age of 18 when the age difference is greater than three years. Maine enacted a bill allowing courts to determine if a person or agency acted unreasonably in withholding consent for adoption.
Child Support Guidelines
In 2020, five states enacted 11 bills related to child support guidelines. Maryland established a formula for calculating child support obligations when a parent with shared custody keeps children overnight a certain number of times per year. Louisiana updated its required child support obligations with regards to the number of children and monthly income of obligors. Virginia enacted a bill requiring any unpaid expenses for the pregnancy or delivery of the child be paid by both parents in proportion to their gross incomes when child support proceedings begin within six months of childbirth.
Child Support Administration
Three states enacted six bills focusing on administrative child support requirements in 2020. In addition to making general appropriations, Tennessee transferred duties relating to the cost of clerks providing federal financial participation services and Maryland enacted legislation transferring duties and appropriations between state offices.
Five states enacted six bills related to parentage in 2020. Five of these bills related to the establishment of paternity. New Hampshire passed a bill expanding adoption eligibility to include unmarried couples and parents of children conceived through assisted reproduction.
Health Care Coverage
One state enacted a bill concerning health care coverage in child support orders: Virginia defined the reasonable cost of health care coverage to be an amount that does not exceed five percent of the gross income of the parent responsible for health care coverage.