History of Child Support in the U.S.

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The United States government began legislating child support enforcement more than 100 years ago. The following timeline outlines the history of child support in the U.S., including laws and amendments that continue to impact child support collection today:

1910: The Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act

The Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act was approved by The National Conference of Commissions on Uniform State Laws in 1910. It was initially adopted by 24 jurisdictions and made it a crime to for a husband to willfully abandon or neglect to provide support for children under the age of 16. However, because the law didn’t provide recourse for parents who left the jurisdiction, these parents frequently escaped justice by relocating to a jurisdiction that hadn’t adopted the law.

1950: Social Security Act Amendment 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(11)

The Federal government began requiring state welfare agencies to notify law enforcement officials when providing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) – a program that later became known as “welfare” and is currently called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) – to any victim of parental abandonment. The purpose of this amendment was to force parents to be accountable for providing for their children, in an effort to relieve the state – and the taxpayers – of that responsibility. To this day, custodial parents applying for government assistance are asked to provide information about the location of the other parent for this purpose.

1950: The Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA)

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and the American Bar Association approved the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA), which allowed states to pursue parents across state lines. URESA was replaced by the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) in 1996.

1965: Social Security Act Amendment (P.L. 89-97)

This amendment allowed state and local agencies to secure privileged information from other state agencies regarding the mailing addresses and places of employment for individuals who owed child support under a court order.

1967: Social Security Act Amendment (P.L. 90-248)

This amendment allowed states to access information collected by the Internal Revenue Service for the purpose of pursuing child support. At the same time, the Federal government began requiring each state to create a means for establishing paternity and collecting child support on behalf of children receiving Federal assistance through AFDC.

1974: Social Security Act Amendment (P.L. 93-647)

This amendment was technically signed into law in January 1975, so it’s occasionally referred to as the Social Security Act Amendment of 1975. This amendment (42 U.S.C. §§ 651 et seq.), is also known as Title IV-D (pronounced ivee-dee) because that portion of the legislation – IV-D – required states to establish their own individual child support collection agencies. While there are different types of child support cases, Title IV-D cases are cases where child support collection is being facilitated through a state’s Office of Child Support Enforcement, as required by this Social Security Act amendment. The amendment also allows states to receive funding and receive incentives for collecting child support in IV-D cases.

1976: Social Security Act Amendment (P.L. 94-566)

According to this amendment, state employment agencies are required to provide the residential addresses of noncustodial parents in IV-D cases to state Child Support Enforcement agencies.

1981: The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981

This amendment to the Social Security Act authorized the Internal Revenue Service to withhold Federal income tax refunds in cases where the recipient is delinquent in paying court-ordered child support. The same amendment allows states to withhold a portion of unemployment benefits for the same purpose and prevents child support payments from being discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.

1988: The Family Support Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-485)

This act allows states to garnish wages for the purpose of collecting child support and requires states to maintain clearly defined child support guidelines.

1992: The Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 (P.L. 102-521)

The Child Support Recovery Act allows states to prosecute parents who willfully choose not to pay child support.

1996: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliations Act of 1996 (PRWORA)

This law transformed the government assistance program formally known as welfare to our current program, titled Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Some provisions in the law also directly impacted child support collection, including the creation of a Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders (FCR) and a National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) for the purpose of tracking child support cases and locating obligors. The law also streamlined the process for establishing paternity, allowing biological fathers to voluntarily acknowledge paternity.

1998: The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA)

This supplement to the Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA) of 1992 increased the consequences for parents who willfully choose not to pay child support. According to the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, parents can accrue fines of up to $10,000 and face up to two years in prison for failing to pay child support to a child who resides in another state.

Albert A. Ehrenzweig, Interstate Recognition of Support Duties: The Reciprocal Enforcement Act in California, 42 Cal. L. Rev. 382 (1954). [http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/californialawreview/vol42/iss3/3]
"APPENDIX A: Legislative History of Child Support Enforcement." Administration for Children & Families. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2012. [http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/pubs/2002/ reports/essentials/appendix_a.html].
Morgan, Larua. "Child Support Enforcement in the United States and the Role of the Private Bar." Child Support Enforcement Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2012. [http://www.csecouncil.org/industry/reports/role-of-bar/].