Author: Carmen Solomon-Fears, Specialist in Social Policy
The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program was enacted in 1975 as a federal-state program (Title IV-D of the Social Security Act) to (1) reduce public expenditures for welfare recipients by obtaining ongoing support from noncustodial parents that could reimburse the state and federal governments for part of their expenses (i.e., welfare cost-recovery) and (2) help strengthen families by securing financial support for children from their noncustodial parent on a consistent and continuing basis to enable some families to remain self-sufficient and off public assistance. Over the years, CSE has evolved into a multifaceted program. While welfare cost-recovery still remains an important function of the program, its other aspects include service delivery and promotion of self-sufficiency and parental responsibility. The CSE program has different rules for welfare and non-welfare families. The CSE program provides seven major services on behalf of children: (1) parent location, (2) paternity establishment, (3) establishment of child support orders, (4) review and modification of child support orders, (5) collection of child support payments, (6) distribution of child support payments, and (7) establishment and enforcement of medical support. Child support collection methods used by state CSE agencies include income withholding; intercept of federal and state income tax refunds; intercept of unemployment compensation; liens against property; reporting child support obligations to credit bureaus; intercept of lottery winnings; sending insurance settlement information to CSE agencies; authority to withhold or suspend driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and recreational and sporting licenses of persons who owe past-due support; and authority to seize assets of debtor parents held by public or private retirement funds and financial institutions. Moreover, federal law authorizes the Secretary of State to deny, revoke, or restrict passports of debtor parents. Federal law also provides for international enforcement of child support.