An Evidence-Based Approach to Child Support


Record levels of job loss, economic instability, and family isolation during the pandemic have raised the child support policy stakes for fathers, families, and communities. Through careful and rigorous research, we know that there is a better way to approach child support policy to build strong families and communities.

Across the country – states, counties, and tribes have embraced the research and are modernizing their child support programs through holistic, family-centered policies and practices that build partnerships with parents instead of adversarial relationships. They go beyond collecting money to address underlying reasons for nonpayment, ensure that children benefit from payments, and facilitate effective co-parenting. Family-centered child support policies put children where they belong: at the center of child support policymaking.

The Centering Child Well-Being in Child Support Policy toolkit, developed in partnership with Good+ Foundation, features new analysis of state child support director survey data. We found that many states are moving to adopt more pragmatic and family-centered child support policies, including the following innovations:

  • Ensure Families Receive All Child Support Payments
    Putting child support dollars in families’ hands results in more income for families and helps them cover essentials like children’s food, clothes, and school supplies. States can direct that money to families at home, rather than to the federal government. Family pass-through and distribution policies incentivize noncustodial fathers to pay through the formal child support program and can increase federal incentive payments by improving child support program performance.

  • Implement Sensible Debt Reduction Strategies
    Reducing state-owed debt can increase employment and child support payments, reduce time spent on futile collection efforts, and increase federal performance incentive payments. Almost all states have policies that allow noncustodial fathers to seek a reduction of state-owed debt, either on a case-by-case basis or as part of a debt reduction program. Debt reduction programs work hand-in-hand with prevention and early intervention strategies, including setting realistic support orders, intervening early in cases where fathers are falling behind on payments, and providing needed services through community partnerships. 
  • Set Realistic and Accurate Child Support Orders
  • Provide Employment and Income Supports When Noncustodial Parents Have Barriers to Payment
  • Provide Family Stabilization Services
  • Improve Equal Access to Justice for All Parents

Explore the most robust state pass-through and disregard policies that benefit families receiving TANF cash assistance and how debt reduction programs can generate payment in cases with a history of nonpayment in the first two fact sheets of this toolkit.

Download infographics and a social media toolkit to share with your networks in recognition of Child Support Awareness Month.

Stay tuned for the next set of fact sheets in this toolkit this fall. They will explore how states can set realistic and accurate child support orders and provide employment and income supports when noncustodial parents have barriers to payment to center child well-being in child support policy.