USDA urges states to enforce SNAP child support rules

Many of the almost 40 million people around the country who rely on benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are children. Research into childhood poverty in California and throughout the United States reveals that children are far more likely to require nutritional assistance when they live with only one of their parents, and studies also show that fewer than half of the single parents who are receiving these benefits have a child custody agreement in place.

According to experts, this is one of the reasons that the child support deficit has grown to $13.5 billion. This figure is arrived at by deducting the amount of child support that noncustodial parents actually pay from the amount that they are required to pay. The provisions of the 2015 Food and Nutrition Act allow states to deny SNAP benefits to either custodial or noncustodial parents who do not cooperate with child support agencies, but only a handful of states have chosen to implement the rules.

On May 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a memo to SNAP program directors around the country urging them to revisit this issue and put child support cooperation regulations into effect. Some advocacy groups say enforcing these requirements will make life harder for families already struggling to make ends meet, but others believe that heeding the USDA’s advice will lead to more noncustodial parents paying child support and improve the lives of poor children.

Noncustodial parents in California who do not make child support payments can face a number of severe sanctions, and attorneys with experience in child support cases may help custodial parents in their efforts to hold them responsible. Attorneys could work with the Department of Child Support Services to collect unpaid child support and file court motions to have delinquent noncustodial parents held in contempt for ignoring a court order. In addition to being ordered to bring child support up to date, delinquent noncustodial parents may be ordered to pay the custodial parent’s legal expenses.