Center for American Progress

RELEASE: 3 Ways to Strengthen the Federal Child Support System
Press Release

RELEASE: 3 Ways to Strengthen the Federal Child Support System

Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress today looked at how proposed rules to modernize the U.S. child support system are a win-win-win opportunity for kids, parents, and state governments. In fall 2014, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a set of proposed rules changes that would increase regular, on-time payments to families; boost employment and earnings for noncustodial parents; and increase the amount of time that noncustodial parents spend with their children. Yet just last week, congressional Republicans introduced legislation to block these proposed rules.

In today’s child support system, noncustodial parents who are already unable to find work or have low-paying jobs that barely cover their basic needs often end up behind bars for nonpayment of child support. This helps neither their child nor the other parent and amounts to a modern day debtor’s prison. The tragic death of Walter Scott in South Carolina in April was a public example of this vicious cycle. The needs for child support reform and criminal justice reform are inherently linked.

“Instead of playing politics, conservatives in Congress should support these important updates as a modest first step toward improving the child support system for parents and children,” said Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP. “These rules will result in noncustodial parents taking greater financial responsibility for their children by better aligning the child support system with the realities facing 21st century families.”

“Outdated child support policies create the ultimate lose-lose scenario, trapping struggling parents in a vicious cycle of debt, nonpayment, and even incarceration,” said Rebecca Vallas, Director of Policy for the Poverty to Prosperity Program. “As bipartisan momentum for criminal justice reform continues to grow, these rules are an essential first step to end mass incarceration and the criminalization of poverty.”

Here are three facts to know about the proposed rules update to improve the child support system:

  1. They build on bipartisan efforts to reform the criminal justice system.
  2. They address barriers to employment for noncustodial parents, helping them pay more in child support.
  3. They promote strong and stable families.

Read the full column, “3 Facts You Need to Know About the Obama Administration’s Proposed Child Support Rules,” online here.

Related resources:

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Liz Bartolomeo at lbartolomeo@americanprogress.org or 202.481.8151.