Family Law Issues and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
Nov 01, 1996 | Paula Roberts
Last Summer, Congress passed -- and the President signed--the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. This law makes major changes in both the public assistance and child support programs. The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program will be phased out over the next few months and replaced by a time-limited, state-designed program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). At the same time, states will be required to make major structural changes in their child support laws and programs.
Many have seen these changes in public assistance and child support as unrelated to one another. In reality, they are not. Because there will be a limit on the amount of time during which families can get help under TANF, families will be more anxious than ever to obtain regular child support payments. Child support payments could help some families avoid the need for TANF assistance in the first place, preserving their eligibility for a time of more pressing need. Child support payments could provide a supplement to wages for families leaving TANF for a job. These payments may help the family avoid poverty and/or avoid the need to return to TANF for assistance. And, for families reaching their TANF time limit, child support may be the primary source of income. In other words, for low-income, single parent families--especially those potentially eligible for TANF--a functioning child support system is crucially important.
To this end, the new law requires states to expand their paternity establishment systems, increase the use of administrative process in establishing support awards, and enhance the tools available for enforcing support orders. The new law also requires states to establish registries of support orders, implement a new hire reporting system, and create a central payment and disbursal system for support collected.
Less noticed, but equally important, the TANF program require states to design and implement child support cooperation requirements for TANF families. If these systems are not carefully crafted, families which need TANF benefits will be denied access to them and the children in these families will face a bleak future. The TANF legislation also contains new rules about the distribution of child support collected on behalf of children who receive or have received public assistance. Implementation of these new rules can also be helpful to low-income families if properly done.
The new law is long and complex. It can leave people feeling overwhelmed. In an effort to help address this problem, we have developed the enclosed packet. It contains distinct, one to three page summaries of the major provisions of the law which have implications for both TANF and child support. Each issues paper describes the old law and the new, identifies issues states will have to address in meeting the requirements of the new law, and recommends policy options. It is our hope that you can use the information to quickly understand what is in the new law and determine what issues may be important for you to focus on in your state.
Table of Contents
- Voluntary Paternity Establishment Under the PRA
- State Collection and Disbursement of Child Support Payments
- State Central Case Registries
- IVD Agency Administrative Process Requirements
- Child Support Cooperation Issues in the Food Stamp Program For Non-Custodial Parents
- Periodic Modification of Support Orders
- Miscellaneous Enforcement Provisions
- Federal Child Support Enforcement Provisions of the PRA
- State TANF Eligibility Criteria and the Structure of Low Income Families
- Contested Paternity Cases Under the PRA
- Good Cause and Other Exceptions to the TANF Child Support Cooperation Requirement
- Child Support Assignment and Cooperation Requirements for TANF Participants
- Distribution of Child Support to Post-TANF Families
- New Hire Reporting
- Distribution of Child Support to Families Receiving TANF
- Child Support Cooperation Issues in the Food Stamp Program for Custodial Parents
- Child Support Fees and Services in the PRA
- Expedited Process