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Handbook On
Child Support Enforcement

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program is a Federal/State partnership to collect child support: we want to send the strongest possible message that parents cannot walk away from their children. Our goals are to ensure that children have the financial support of both their parents, to foster responsible behavior towards children, and to reduce welfare costs.

The CSE Program was established in 1975 as Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. It functions in all States and territories, through the State/county Social Services Department, Attorney General's Office or Department of Revenue. Most States work with prosecuting attorneys, other law enforcement agencies, and officials of family or domestic relations courts to carry out the program at the local level.

State Child Support Programs locate noncustodial parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce support orders, and collect child support payments. While programs vary from State to State, their services are available to all parents who need them.

The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It helps States develop, manage, and operate their programs effectively and according to Federal law. The Office pays the major share of State program operating costs, provides policy guidance and technical help to enforcement agencies, conducts audits and educational programs, supports research, and shares ideas for program improvement.

We believe that child support enforcement provides hope as well as support to America's children. We dedicate this Handbook to the millions of parents who put their children first by responsibly providing for their emotional and financial support.

FOREWORD

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) included provisions to ensure that more children have paternity and child support orders established and receive financial support to cover their basic needs. The new cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), that has replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), is time limited. Child support provisions of the new law are designed to ensure that those noncustodial parents who have not done so will take a fair share of the responsibility for the financial support of children.

  • A National new hire reporting system. The law establishes a National Directory of "New Hires" which requires employers to report all newly hired employees for inclusion in State and National Directories of New Hires. This provision will speed direct withholding of child support from wages as well as help track obligated parents across State lines. (Effective 10/1/97)

  • Streamlined paternity establishment. The law makes it easier to establish legal paternity for children born to unmarried parents. It expands the use of administrative (rather than judicial) procedures and the voluntary in-hospital paternity establishment program, and requires standardized acknowledgement forms. (Effective 10/1/96)

  • Uniform interstate child support laws. The law provides for uniform rules, procedures, and forms for interstate cases. (Effective 1/1/98)

  • Computerized state-wide collections. States are required to establish centralized collection and disbursement units. (Effective 10/1/98)

  • Enhanced techniques/tough new penalties. Under PRWORA States can implement enhanced child support enforcement techniques. The law expands wage withholding, and allows states to require obligated parents to work. The law also enables States to revoke drivers, professional, recreational and occupational licenses of parents who owe delinquent child support, and allows States to seize assets.

  • Access and visitation programs. In an effort to support noncustodial parents' involvement in their children's lives, the law includes grants to states to develop programs that support children's visitation with and access to their noncustodial parents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION
How to apply for child support enforcement services....what they cost

II. FINDING THE NONCUSTODIAL PARENT: LOCATION
The initial search...Federal and State Parent Locator Services

III. ESTABLISHING FATHERHOOD: PATERNITY
Benefits...necessary evidence...voluntary acknowledgment

IV. ESTABLISHING THE SUPPORT ORDER: OBLIGATION
Determining the amount...changing the amount

V. ENFORCING THE SUPPORT ORDER: ENFORCEMENT
Techniques that work

VI. WORKING ACROSS STATE LINES: INTERSTATE COOPERATION
How to collect payments in another State...tracking your case

VII. CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT FOR NATIVE AMERICAN CHILDREN

VIII. CONCLUSION

APPENDIX
Glossary of Child Support Enforcement Terms
State Child Support Enforcement Offices
Regional Offices of the Office of Child Support Enforcement
Child Support Enforcement Records


 
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