Office of Child Support Enforcement

330 C Street SW
5th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20201
(202) 401-9373 Phone
(202) 260-5980 Fax

www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css

The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) partners with federal, state, tribal, and local governments and others to promote parental responsibility so children receive support from both parents, even when they live in separate households.  The national child support program serves one in four children—and half of poor children—in the United States.  It is one of the largest income support programs for low-income families and one of the few helping to link low-income fathers to employment and supportive services to assist these noncustodial parents in paying child support and engaging with their children.

States and some tribes operate child support programs to ensure that parents provide reliable financial, medical and emotional support for children.  Agencies locate noncustodial parents, establish legal parentage, establish and enforce support orders, increase health care coverage for children, and remove barriers to regular payments by referring parents to employment services, supporting healthy co-parenting relationships, supporting responsible fatherhood, and helping to prevent and reduce family violence. Child support agencies work across state, tribal, territorial, and international boundaries. The federal government pays the major part of program operating costs. A small number of competitive grants are available for projects to improve the effectiveness of services for children and families. OCSE also funds state formula grants to provide access and visitation services to help connect noncustodial parents with their children.

The program serves diverse groups and those who are vulnerable and underserved.  Research shows that regular payments are based on employment and parental commitment. People who need child support program services work with their state, tribal or local offices.  Recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program benefits receive services automatically.  Non-TANF families can apply for services.  Under certain circumstances, noncustodial parents can use the program to locate a parent to enforce or establish a custody or visitation order.  OCSE collaborates with other federal agencies to help address issues such as health care needs of children and economic needs of homeless veterans.

Last Reviewed: February 4, 2016
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