The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it supports child support cooperation requirements for people receiving support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to as “food stamps.” In order to receive SNAP benefits, the USDA is arguing that states should require SNAP recipients to cooperate with child support enforcement efforts. This can include requiring both custodial and non-custodial parents to make official agreements for child support as part of their eligibility to receive SNAP benefits.
There are around 40 million people across the country that benefit from SNAP. Around 37% of children in single-parent families live in poverty, and one contributing factor is a failure by the non-custodial parents to pay child support. Of course, poverty itself poses a challenge, as poor parents are both far less likely to have a child support order or agreement in place and far more likely to face difficulties in meeting their payment obligations. Studies estimate that there is a nationwide gap of $13.5 billion between what custodial parents should be receiving in child support payments and what they actually receive.
Some have criticized the drive to implement child support cooperation requirements, noting that people in poverty often have the fewest resources to deal with legal issues and arguing that food should not be used as a pressure tactic. These critics also note that some custodial parents and their children are fleeing abusive former partners and mandated agreements could prove detrimental. The USDA guidelines do encourage exceptions for cases where cooperation does not benefit the child’s best interests.
Single parents who are struggling to make ends meet may not be sure what they can do to receive the child support they need. A family law attorney can help a parent seek enforcement of a child support order in court.