Setting the Baseline: A Report on State Welfare Waivers. Section 8: Child Support Requirements


AFDC Requirement: AFDC recipients were required to assign all child support collections, up to the amount of benefits they receive, to the welfare agency. States were required to pass-through the first $50 of current month child support payments to the family for which they were collected. The amount of this pass-through was disregarded, so families received this amount as additional income. It did not count against the recipients' income in determining their family's AFDC eligibility or the assistance grant amount. The remainder of the child support collected was shared between the state and the federal government to reimburse the cost of providing AFDC assistance.

AFDC recipients were required to cooperate with establishment and enforcement of child support orders, unless they had good cause not to. The sanction for failure to cooperate, or for refusal to assign payments to the state, was denial of the custodial parent's share of the AFDC grant.

Waivers: States requested and received waivers of a number of provisions related to child support enforcement. The child support enforcement waivers received by each state are summarized in Table VIII.A and a state-by-state description of the waivers is provided in Table VIII.B.

As indicated on this chart, the most common type of waiver with child support implications was allowing JOBS services to be provided to non-custodial parents, in order to enable them to find employment that would allow them to pay child support. Such waivers were received by 23 states. Some of these programs were voluntary; in other cases, courts could require parents who were delinquent in child support payments to participate.

The next most common type of waiver, received by 20 states, changed the pass-through and disregard. A total of 14 states received waivers that allowed them to increase the pass-through and/or the disregard, while three states received waivers that allowed them to eliminate the pass-through. These waivers enabled states to test the effectiveness of the pass-through in increasing child support collections. Five states received waivers from the Department of Agriculture so that they could disregard the amount of the pass-through in calculating food stamps as well as AFDC benefits. A smaller number of states increased the pass-through or disregard only for those children who were affected by a family cap provision. Since families did not receive benefits on behalf of such children, several states decided that it was appropriate for families to keep the child support collected on their behalf.

Another common group of waivers increased the requirements for cooperation with child support enforcement, and/or increased the sanction for failure to cooperate. A total of 19 states received such waivers. The majority of these increased the sanction for noncooperation to denial of benefits to the entire assistance unit, not just the non-cooperating parents. A few moved responsibility for determination of cooperation to the IV-D (Child Support) office rather than the IV-A (AFDC) office. In order to make it easier to track down non-custodial parents, some states received waivers allowing them to require parents to provide such detailed information as the social security number and the last known address of non-custodial parents.

Finally, some states received waivers that do not fall into any of these categories. These ranged from one-time bonus payments for establishing paternity, to pilot projects testing child support assurance, to projects providing counseling and other assistance to non-custodial parents.

TANF Provision: TANF recipients are still required to assign child support collections to the welfare agency. However, the $50 pass-through has been eliminated. States may still opt to pass-through some of the funds collected to the custodial family; however, they must then reimburse the federal government for its share of the collections out of state funds. States which pass through child support collections may establish their own policy as to whether to disregard this income. The distribution rules are changed so that families no longer on assistance have first priority in receipt of child support arrears.

The child support enforcement provisions have been strengthened under the new law. Individuals who fail to cooperate with paternity establishment or with establishment and enforcement of a support order will have their monthly cash assistance reduced by at least 25 percent. (States have the option to end assistance altogether.) Federal funds may not be spent to provide assistance to a family with a member who has not assigned support rights to the state. States must establish central registries of child support orders and must collect information on new hires in order to facilitate automatic withholding. States are also given a number of other new tools to enforce the payment of child support.