The Child Support Program, enacted in 1975 as Part D of Title IV of the Social Security Act (P.L. 93-647), is one of the largest income support programs in the country, serving more children than the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Social Security combined. It is open to all children living apart from a parent. Child support services include locating noncustodial parents, establishing paternity, establishing and enforcing support orders, modifying orders when appropriate, and collecting and disbursing child support payments. Through the collection and disbursement of payments, the program facilitates the transfer of private income between parents to strengthen the financial well-being of children, thus reducing government costs.
Given its wide reach and interaction with both mothers and fathers, child support is uniquely positioned to support family formation and stability, promote noncustodial parents’ emotional and financial involvement, and link parents to other types of family strengthening services. Healthy relationships between parents, and between parent and child, are vitally important for both child well-being and stable child support payments.
This webpage includes links to materials ASPE has produced on child support policy and its intersection with related and emerging issue areas. To receive updates when new products come out, email Sofi Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASPE, in collaboration with the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), laid out policy research questions to be explored over the next ten years, based on perspectives from policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in the field. The culminating agenda is accompanied by a podcast discussion with child support professionals and researchers.
- Building the Next Generation of Child Support Policy Research Agenda
- Building the Next Generation of Child Support Policy Research Podcast
Child Support Cooperation Requirements
For some public programs, states must require cooperation with child support as a condition of eligibility. For other public programs, states have the option to require cooperation with child support. There is limited research on the impact of child support cooperation requirements on child support outcomes. ASPE has produced several analyses to examine the current policy landscape and provide context for policy conversations.
- How many families might be newly reached by child support cooperation requirements in SNAP and subsidized child care, and what are their characteristics?
- Are parents with a child support order more likely to be eligible for both SNAP and subsidized child care?
- Child Support Cooperation Requirements in Child Care Subsidy Programs and SNAP: Key Policy Considerations Infographic
- Child Support Cooperation Requirements in Child Care Subsidy Programs and SNAP: Key Policy Considerations Issue Brief
Research and Analysis
ASPE uses the research agenda to guide new analyses that build the child support evidence base and explore emerging and pressing policy issues
- Housing Instability for Noncustodial Parents: Policy Considerations – This brief and infographic present estimates of the percentage of noncustodial parents who are eligible for and receive housing assistance and identifies opportunities for key stakeholders to further consider and address the needs of this population.
- State Strategies for Improving Child Support Outcomes for Incarcerated Parents – This brief describes four key strategies states use to identify incarcerated parents with child support orders and improve their child support payment outcomes through modifications and connections to workforce programs upon release.
- Coordinating Parenting Time and Child Support: Experiences and Lessons Learned From Three States – This brief describes the coordination of child support and parenting time orders, highlighting findings on the establishment and enforcement of parenting time in select jurisdictions in Indiana, Michigan, and Texas.
- An Examination of the Use and Effectiveness of Child Support Enforcement Tools in Six States - Child support programs use various strategies called “enforcement tools” to collect critical monetary support for custodial families from noncustodial parents. This study examines how states and localities implement enforcement tools in six states and examines the extent to which enforcement practice varies.
- Illicit Substance Use and Child Support: An Exploratory Study - This project assessed what is known about how substance use disorders (SUDs), in particular opioid use disorder (OUD), affect noncustodial parents’ labor market experiences, the establishment of child support orders, noncustodial parents’ ability to pay formal child support, and current practices used to increase child support compliance and substance use treatment among this population.
- The Child Support Performance and Incentive Act at 20: Examining Trends in State Performance - This brief highlights trends in state performance based on analysis of annual state performance data since the implementation of the Child Support Performance and Incentive Act.
- Independent Contractors and Nontraditional Workers: Implications for the Child Support Program – This study examines the response of the child support program to the growing presence of independent contractors and nontraditional workers. View the Infographic and read the full report.
This work is built on ASPE’s rich history of analysis on child support policy and the intersection with fatherhood issues. A few key products include:
- Assessing Child Support Arrears in Nine Large States and the Nation – This report uses child support administrative data from nine states to provide information about the underlying characteristics of child support arrears.
- Earnings and Child Support Participation Among Reentering Fathers - This brief presents findings on pre- and post-incarceration wages and child support participation in the five impact sites of the Multi-site Family Study on Incarceration, Parenting and Partnering (MFS-IP). This analysis matches MFS-IP survey data with state administrative data on wages and child support participation to examine this gap.
- Ten Key Findings from Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives – This brief focuses on several important early fatherhood initiatives that were developed and implemented during the 1990s and early 2000s that provide valuable lessons to policymakers and program staff.
Through ASPE’s National Poverty Center Cooperative Agreement, five research projects were funded to examine potential policy or programmatic implications for the child support enforcement program at the federal, state, or local level.