State Policies to Promote Marriage. Table 7: Cash Assistance Policies


State TANF: Two-Parent Family Eligibility Based Solely on Financial Circumstances a/ TANF: Provide Marriage Incentives TANF: Marriage Promotion by State Workers Child support arrearage forgiveness upon remarriage b/
Alabama X Disregards the earned income of a new or reconciling spouses for three months. Source: APHSA 2001 survey.    
Alaska X      
Arkansas X      
Colorado X      
Connecticut X      
Delaware X      
District of Columbia        
Florida X      
Hawaii X      
Idaho X      
Illinois X      
Iowa X      
Kansas X      
Louisiana X      
Maine   Stepparents of TANF children have the option to be included or excluded from the TANF program. Source: Maine Public Assistance Manual    
Maryland X      
Michigan X      
Minnesota X Stepparents are required to be included as eligible members in a TANF assistance unit. Source: APHSA 2001 survey.    
Mississippi   (1) Disregard the income of a stepparent in determining a household's eligibility for welfare for the first six months after the couple marries. Source:

(2) Bill. SB2834 (1999 Regular Session). Died in Committee. The Department of Human Services may make a one-time lump-sum payment to any TANF participant who becomes disqualified for TANF assistance payments as a result of getting married. Source:

Montana X      
Nebraska X      
Nevada X      
New Hampshire        
New Jersey X Since 1992, the state has excluded a non-needy stepparent's income in computing the grant, provided the household income does not exceed 150% poverty. Source:
New Mexico X      
New York X      
North Carolina X      
North Dakota   Disregard the income of a stepparent in determining a household's eligibility for welfare for the first six months after the couple marries. Source:
Ohio X      
Oklahoma   Disregard all income of the new spouse for 3-6 months. Source: Stoltzfus et al. (2000). State will combine the income of cohabiting, but unmarried, couples to determine a household's eligibility for welfare. Combining Cohabitors' income will likely decrease their benefits, thus discouraging cohabitation and presumably encouraging marriage. Source:
Training for state workers (e.g. public health nurses, social workers) to help them teach marriage skills courses at the community level. Courses not restricted to TANF recipients. Caseworkers encouraged to discuss/mention marriage with clients. Source:
Rhode Island X      
South Carolina X      
South Dakota        
Tennessee   Those who marry can continue to qualify for assistance and may either include or exclude the spouse from assistance group. If including the spouse in the group, his/her income is disregarded if it is below 185 percent of the need standard for the household. Source:   Holds harmless child support arrearage owed by a father who marries the mother of his children, as long as he continues to reside in the home. (Same holds true if a woman owing child support marries the father of her children. Source:
Texas X      
Utah X      
Vermont X     Law. If arrearages accrue after support rights have been assigned and the obligor and obligee subsequently reunite, the office of child support may not take any action to collect the support arrearages, unless the reunited family has a gross income equal to or greater than 225 percent of poverty, as defined by the United States Office of Health and Human Services. Source: Vermont Statutes : TITLE 33 Human Services : PART 3 Programs and Services for Children and Youth : CHAPTER 41. OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT : § 4106. Assignment of rights. (e)
Virginia X      
Washington   Bill. HB5497 (1998-1999). Died in committee. Public assistance, benefit program to encourage recipients to marry. Provides that, if a recipient of public assistance marries and lives with and remains married to his or her spouse as a legally married couple for twelve months, the recipient shall receive a lump sum check at that time from the state for four times the monthly financial benefit level he or she would have received immediately following the marriage had he or she remained on public assistance. Source:
West Virginia X Adds a $100 marriage incentive payment to the monthly cash benefit of any family that includes a legally married man and woman who live together. Source: Stoltzfus et al., (2000)    
Wisconsin X      
Wyoming X      
a/ Source: Two-parent families are not subject to the work history or 100-hour rules. This enables two-parent and single-parent families to be treated the same. NOTE: Some states have more generous eligibility rules for TANF than for Medicaid (which explains why columns 1 and 5 do not match).
b/ Child support arrearages are forgiven if the non-custodial parent marries the custodial parent and the custodial parent was on public assistance. Note: this only reflects arrearage forgiveness upon remarriage; other states may forgive arrears for other reasons.
Table Sources:
  • American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), 2001. State Efforts to Promote Marriage, Family Formation and Prevent Family Disintegration. APHSA: Washington, D.C.
  • Stoltzfus, E., Burk, V., and G. Falk, 2000. Welfare Reform: State Programs of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Congressional Research Service: Washington, D.C.