New rule will increase regular child support payments to families

Today HHS’ Administration for Children and Families announced a new rule to make state child support enforcement programs more effective, flexible, and family-friendly.

The rule requires state child support agencies to increase their case investigative efforts to ensure that child support orders – the amount noncustodial parents are required to pay each month – reflect the parent’s ability to pay. Taking a more realistic approach to calculating child support payments, the rule requires states to consider a low-income noncustodial parent’s specific circumstances when the order is set, rather than taking a one-size-fits all approach. And the rule requires that states take the investigative steps necessary to ensure that all relevant information about the noncustodial parent’s circumstances are collected and verified.

The goal is to set realistic orders so that noncustodial parents pay regularly, rather than setting an unrealistically high order that results in higher rates of nonpayment. At the same time, states retain flexibility in the level of orders they set.

Rule Highlights

The new rule updates the child support program by amending existing policy in order to:

  • ensure child support obligations are based upon accurate information and the noncustodial parents’ ability to pay
  • increase consistent timely payments to families as well as the number of noncustodial parents supporting their children
  • strengthen procedural fairness
  • improve child support collection rates
  • reduce the accumulation of unpaid and uncollectible child support arrearages
  • incorporate evidence-based standards tested by states that support good customer service
  • increase program efficiency and simplify operational requirements, including standardizing and streamlining payment processing so employers are not unduly burdened
  • incorporate technological advances that support cost-effective management practices and streamlined intergovernmental enforcement
  • prohibit states from excluding incarceration from consideration as a substantial change in circumstances, require states to notify parents of their right to request a review and adjustment of their order if they will be incarcerated for more than six months, and ensure that child support orders for those who are incarcerated reflect the individuals’ circumstances while continuing to allow states significant flexibility in setting orders for incarcerated parents
  • require state child support agencies to make payments directly to a resident parent, legal guardian, or individual designated by the court in order to reign in aggressive and often inappropriate practices of third-party child support collection agencies

Quick Facts

  • The goal of the rule is to set realistic orders so that noncustodial parents pay regularly, rather than setting an unrealistically high order that results in higher rates of nonpayment.
  • The rule requires state child support agencies to increase their case investigative efforts to ensure that child support orders – the amount noncustodial parents are required to pay each month – reflect the parent’s ability to pay.

Quotes

“We know from research that when child support orders are set unrealistically high, noncustodial parents are less likely to pay. In fact, several studies say compliance declines when parents are ordered to pay above 15 to 20 percent of their income.”
Mark Greenberg, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families.
“By ensuring states set their orders based on actual circumstances in the family, we believe the rule will result in more reliable child support payments, and children will benefit.”
Mark Greenberg, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families.
“Our number one goal is to increase regular child support payments to families. Orders often go unpaid when they are set beyond the ability of unemployed and low-wage parents to pay them, resulting in large arrearages that themselves lead to less employment and support paid. The rule is intended to ensure that all families receive the support they need.”
Vicki Turetsky, Commissioner, HHS Office of Child Support Enforcement .
“The Office of Child Support Enforcement has worked collaboratively with States for many years and together we have developed a strong evidence base about what works in child support. The new rule is grounded in that evidence and sound state practice.”
Vicki Turetsky, Commissioner, HHS Office of Child Support Enforcement .
Last Reviewed: December 19, 2016
Archived: November 14, 2017

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