Establishing Realistic Support Orders
Child Support and the Judiciary Bench Card
It is important to a child that judicial officials establish a realistic, appropriate order based on the noncustodial parent’s real ability to pay support so that:
- the parent can make, and the child(ren) can depend on, regular child support payments
- an arrearage does not accrue; and
- noncustodial parents are more likely to remain in the formal economy.
Prior to establishing a support order judicial officials may find it beneficial to review the discussion of “Lessons Learned” in the Handbook on Child Support Enforcement (updated in 2008).
Since the Federal Child Support Enforcement Program was established in 1975, four general types of noncustodial parents have been identified:
- those who are willing and able to pay
- those who are willing but unable
- those who are unwilling but able
- those who are unwilling and unable to provide support
All states are required to adopt and use numeric child support guidelines as the presumptive correct amount of child support in all cases, not just Title IV-D cases, and to review their guidelines at least every four years. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) conducted a state survey in 2004 - 2005 regarding the following areas of child support enforcement guidelines:
- Content: including economic basis of the guidelines, policy decisions, medical support, parenting time adjustments, child care expenses, retroactive support, and treatment of low-income parents;
- Review Process: including how states conduct their reviews, who is involved and public input;
- Case Data Review: including methodology and deviation.
Access the survey at NCSL Survey; and the NCSL child support guideline website. A review of each state’s guidelines and procedures for establishing support is located at IRG, select "State" under Public Access User and choose the state you are researching. Each state agency’s support order establishment can be found by clicking on it under program category. An additional resource for information pertaining to the administration of each state’s child support program is located at state child support programs.
For background and additional sites referencing the issuance of an income withholding order see the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ website. When navigating through the child support program in establishing a new child support order, judicial officials may find it useful to review a complete glossary of common child support terms and acronyms accessed at IM 07-11. An additional website that may be helpful to judicial officials is the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), which provides judicial branch links to each state.