History of Child Support

The child support laws in every state in the United States has a program to help families pay, process, and collect support payments.

Each state’s agency can work across state lines to ensure that payments are collected and distributed.

But this was not always the case. Child laws and programs have evolved tremendously over the years. Here is a closer look at the development of child laws and programs as we know them today.

The History
In the early nineteenth century, the courts in America that were dealing with the cases of divorce and marital breakdowns, found that the current laws don't provide for a support action. America had inherited many English laws in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and these laws found that the father had only a non-enforceable moral duty to support his children. In fact, English precedents actually forbid any third party from recovering the costs of support unless these costs had been pre-authorized by a contract with the child’s father.

But England’s laws did allow for a limited recovery of support costs in certain circumstances. The Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 authorized the local parishes to recover some of the funds that were spent in caring for a single mother and her children who were not provided for by the children’s father.

This statute could only be prevailed upon when the mother and children were completely impoverished. In addition, the Elizabethan Poor Law allowed the town to recoup their relief costs. Any third parties or single mothers could not directly ask for reimbursed of support expenses.

Despite the absence of a child provision within English laws, the courts in American slowly began to tackle the notion that a father had a legal obligation to support his offspring. One of the earliest American support cases was Stanton vs. Willson. The Supreme Court of Connecticut decided this case in 1808. In this case, the Supreme Court of Connecticut allowed Eunice Stanton to recover support from her first husband on behalf of her deceased second husband, Joshua.

It is interesting to note in this case that two of Eunice's children had been awarded to her by a custody decree, and the third had fled from her ex-husband because of fears of abuse. The court clearly stated in this case that the children’s father was legally bound “to protect, educate, and maintain  their legitimate children.” Similar cases in New York and New Jersey began to assert that a father could be held financially responsible for the welfare of his children.

This financial dependency theme recurred almost in every children support case decided by the courts of America during the nineteenth century, primarily because newly divorced American mothers in nineteenth-century were almost always forced to live in poverty.

Even families that were well off financially before the divorce found that after the divorce, the father almost always profited and the mother almost always became impoverished. This occurred because the men were suddenly free from the expenses of the family, whereas the women were forced to take on the financial burden of raising the children.

In addition, if the mother did attempt to find a job for herself, she generally earned less than what a man would make in the same field. 

Once the obligation to financially provide for children was legally established, there were many early children support claims brought about by third parties who had provided board, clothing, or food to impoverished single mothers and their children and who were willing to recover these costs from the non-supporting father.

As the support doctrine continued to develop after the 1850s, the courts began to use a two part “test” to determine the basis for reimbursement. First, the courts asked if the items provided by the plaintiff were necessities that provided for the bare subsistence of the children, such as clothing and food. Second, the courts tried to determine if the father had actually been negligent in providing those items himself. 

Before long, the courts in America utilized this child support doctrine to allow newly divorced women to recover directly from their spouse for money they spent in supporting their offspring. As was previously the case, these mothers had to prove the ex-husbands had failed to support their own children.

In addition, divorced women had to show proof that their spouse was at fault for the divorce. Yet, even in these instances, the father was only obligated to pay support for the bare maintenance of the child. By the late nineteenth century, almost every state in the nation had on its books some legally enforceable duty for a father to support his children. click here for more information about children and divorce

It is important to note that the system that was developing at this time only offered a means of support to caucasian  families. Slavery, which was prevalent in both the North and the South, did not allow for the legal marriage of blacks, nor did it allow black men to be considered head of household. These men therefore did not have the rights and duties that made support relevant.

Under slavery, black children did not have a legal father, therefore there was no way that a black mother could seek compensation from her children’s father. It was not until after the Civil War that black couples were legally allowed to marry. But in many instances, black couples dismissed the formal institute of marriage and instead chose to maintain informal and unofficial marriages.

Child Support Becomes the Law

The laws continued to develop into the twentieth century. In 1950, Congress passed the first Federal support enforcement legislation requiring State welfare agencies to notify appropriate law enforcement officials when it became necessary to provide aid to dependent children who had been abandoned or deserted by a parent.

Amendments to the Social Security Act in 1965 allowed local and state welfare agencies to obtain information from the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare regarding the address and place of employment of a non-custodial parent who owed support under a court order for support.

The year 1975 saw big changes not only for the collection of child support, but also for the enforcement of child support collection. Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, was signed into law on January 4, 1975. This law allowed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (previously the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare,) to establish a separate division, which would be mandated to oversee the operation of a Enforcement program.

This program would establish a parent locator service; state operational guidelines, and a plan for periodic review of cases. The primary responsibility for operating the  Enforcement program was placed on each state. These provisions were to come into effect by July 1, 1975.

The next big year for child support laws was 1984, when the Child Support Enforcement Amendments were established requiring major improvements in both state and local Enforcement programs. First, all States were required to develop mandatory income withholding procedures as well as expedited processes for establishing and enforcing support orders (such as income tax refund interceptions and property liens.) In addition, states were allowed to report delinquent parents to consumer credit agencies.

In 1988, The Family Support Act of 1988 was enacted. This act made several important changes to the support programs.  Most significantly, the act required the courts to use State guidelines when establishing support amounts. States were also required to review their guidelines every four years. Another important provision established with the Child Recovery Act of 1992, made it a Federal crime to willfully fail to pay past-due child support payments, with respect to a child who resides in another State.

Today
One of the most significant changes in support enforcement policy in recent years has been the shift towards addressing men's roles as fathers. Legislation enacted in 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, contains significant revisions in child support legislation that call for the development of a number of social services programs aimed towards working with fathers.

Under this Act, states can apply for grants in the range of $50,000 to develop programs that provide mediation and counseling services and encourage child visitation in families where the parents do not live together.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act also allowed for the creation of the New Hires database, which requires all employers to report information about newly hired employees. This allows child support enforcement officials to track down deadbeat parents, even across state lines and retrieve payments through income withholding.

If you have any legal questions on child support laws or any thing related, type in your question in the box below and a certified lawyer will be able to assist you.


What Is Your Child Support History

What is your story, your history, or your experience with the child support system? Share with others on how a change can be made.

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]

 

Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

 submission guidelines.


(You can preview and edit on the next page)

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Mic-Alabama 
Well it sounds like Texas is just as bad as Alabama. I pay 67% for my son. His mother cut of visitations in 2004 and the only way for me to fight is …

Why I REFUSE to pay child support 
Why I REFUSE to pay child support When people ask me how can I be divorced with two children and pay no child support, I tell them I took a cue from …

Not in favor of Child Support 
This may sound odd, as one might assume as a woman and a single mother who raised her child alone, that I would be in favor of child support. I am not. …

AMERICA FALLING DOWN 
My divorce was final in June of 2007. I have always made my payments, but have been deeply effected by the burden and stigma of "child support". Since …

Screwed by Judge 
I was never married but I seperated when my daughter was 1 1/2 I was seeing her 3 days a week and paying $150 bi-weekly by check as I was only making 12$/ …

Help non-custodial parents to pay 
I am a NCP that owes back child support thanks to a typo in my divorce decree. I am not only paying my regular support at this time, but I am also paying …

Punishment for home that doesn't hold the title primary home 
Our story is this, I am married to a man who brought three children into our marriage and we now have had four little girls together. My oldest stepdaughter …

Child Support Is One Thing, but Adult Support Must End 
The law in New Jersey that requires only divorcing and non-custodial parents to pay adult support and pay higher education costs for their adult children …

What's Luck Got To Do With it ? 
Where do I begin, I'm reading through all these stories and testimonies and while it's clear that the child support laws, policy and procedures needs …

A decade of overpayments! 
My husband has 2 daughters, now 14 and 11, with a woman in Colorado. He was originally ordered to pay over $1100 a month in child support. His ex wife …

Hardship placed upon Parent! 
Receive $1,600. pay monthly. Have $350 House payment, $350 Utilities-Gas, Electric, Water, $208 Phone Bill-have to have 2 phones; $50 Internet-Child has …

I am not the father 
I have been paying child support for over 14 years only to find out that i am not the father. I was with this young lady off and on she got pregnant aand …

On a Mission! 
Okay, fellow Women, what I am about to say may make some of you mad, but it needs saying.. While I recognize that there are huge amounts of deadbeat …

No HELP, None. Ridiculous  
I used a vacation day of mine to get the appointment. I paid my $25.00, to get the help from the prosecutor's office and nothing has been done. I am not …

Am I being fair? I believe I am!!!! 
My ex-husband and I divorced 8 years ago. I got custody of my 2 children. At that time they were 3 and 4. I was awarded 290.00 a month child support. He …

Non Custodial Parent and Rights 
I am a non-custodial Parent (mom) who was ordered to pay support. My daughter went to live with her father in 2002. At the time she was sent to live …

Child Support is an Unjust Burden 
Child Support in Texas is unfair, inequitable, and unjust. Given the current standard visitation laws in Texas child support puts an unjust burden on the …

Me against the robbers 
I am dealing with a situation in Ohio where the state has been holding on to income tax money meant for my son for almost six months now. I recently …

Custodial parent--Barbara Casebolt 
It has been very hard for me to get the child support awarded for my children from the very beginning. I am thankful that the Attorney General, Greg Abbott …

Child Support Insidiously Alienating Fathers 
Dear friends, I am addressing the Child Support awards program. American society today believes all men and women are equals in all aspects of life. …

Child Support Contradicts the Constitution and Should be Abolished 
Child Support Contradicts the Constitution and Should be Abolished Wei Liu Recently I find the child support upon divorce contradicts the Constitution …

"child support" is UNCONSTITUNIONAL 
I am a single father of two children that's being choked to death by the corrupt "child support" system. The story is when my ex-wife and I were married …

THE SLAVE FAMILY 
THE BEST WAY TO KEEP AN INDIVIDUAL ENSLAVED IS TO FIRST ENSLAVE THE PARENTS OR GAURDIAN OF THAT INDIVIDUAL. IN MINORITY CHILD SUPPORT CASES THE CUSTODIAL …

DEADBEAT DAD "FLIES UNDER RADAR" 
I am very frustrated with the way Child Support Enforcement deals with parents who are behind on court ordered child support. I am the disabled single …

Click here to write your own.

What is the fight for? 
Is it enough? God, I ask myself that everyday. A lot recently though while I have been considering taking the father of my son back to court for more "child …

Amanda, IL 
My husband I started dating in 1997. He was the father of a young, adorable son. He and I bonded instantly! Since then, I have helped to raise his son, …

The Child Support Laws are flawed 
I am a 28 year Army soldier. I have to pay child support for three of my children. Recently, I was taken to court and my child support was raised to a …

Mom threatened with jail by miscalculation of support Not rated yet
My daughter is almost 10 years old, and I have been representing myself in her custody conflicts in three different Louisiana Courthouses for 5 years. …

This is a mockery of the original meaning to "child support" Not rated yet
I live in the craziest state known to man. I was actively taking care of my children and their mother got mad because I wouldn't give her money. So she …

Not in favor of Child Support Not rated yet
This may sound odd, as one might assume as a woman and a single mother who raised her child alone, that I would be in favor of child support. I am not. …

Wait til i leave Not rated yet
I am a now 26 year old college student. When I left my hometown I had been laid off, I lost my home, car pretty much everything went down hill. My mother …

y-not Not rated yet
I was providing for my son(?) This woman had two prior children who she didn't know who the fathers were - Anyway we were friends and i helped support …

How can a Change be made? Not rated yet
The Government, in an effort to insure the welfare of the rising generation, has imposed laws upon its people that are interfering with that very same …

Child support laws come from Marxist Soviet Family Laws Not rated yet
The recent (past 50 years) child support laws derive from Soviet Family Law, Article 81 (which started in the Soviet Union in 1917, were modified in 1944 …

Trying to make ends meat!!!!!! Not rated yet
I was divorced in 1996. I have 2 childern from that marrage. Their father was ordered to pay $90 a week and keep insurence on them. I have not increased …

THE EX FROM HELL Not rated yet
My Husband is a wonderful man, he is an amazing father of 3 boys 2 with his ex and one with me. He pays child support on time for his other 2 he is always …

SMC Not rated yet
My experience in trying to collect child support has been unbelievable! I have had 4 different case workers in 8 years. He has lived in Nv. original divorce …

Frustrated in Canada Not rated yet
I have been raising my son in Canada for 14 years. I have been trying to arrange some form of child support from his dad in California, but to no avail. …

DEAD BEAT MOM Not rated yet
In 2000 I had a serious head injury and was 'away from the world' for many months. When I began to come around I found that my, then, so called wife, …

WHO ENFORCES THE COURT ORDERS!!! Not rated yet
My first husband and I divorced when our second son was just a few months old. When we were divorced I was awarded child support (For Darrell and Justin). …

Minor with Child, When they are to young to be responsible Not rated yet
I am a Grandmother of a beautiful baby boy, he was born to a 16 year old mother, (my daughter) and a 15 year old father. I have tried to get some help …

Has it gone too far? Not rated yet
My father in law was a dead beat dad for most of my husband's life. Just in the last three years have they been able to reconnect and have a civil relationship. …

New York Tranist Employee Not rated yet
My ex-wife move to Texas a couple year ago, she told the child support unit that I never gave her a dime of money. New York transit authority child support …

Silvercloud13 Not rated yet
My husband and I have been in litigation for 7years. We have full custody of twin boys since they were 9mo old. The bio-parents were abusing/neglectful/and …

Joint Temporary Custody Not rated yet
My fiancée has a beautiful 12 year old daughter by a woman that he barely knew. He did not even know the little girl existed until she was almost 2. They …

Judgement Day Not rated yet
Like some of your other readers comments, I too have fallen to the Attorney Generals pitfalls of inconsistencies, attention to details, and "whatever" …

Child Support! Not rated yet
I have a close friend that has a son by an former serviceman. The boy is now 24 years old. His dad was stationed at the Alameda navy base in 1982. When …

Click here to write your own.

Return to Child Support Laws