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History of Child Support

Video Transcript

The foundations for the modern era of child support were laid in 1975 with legislation signed by President Gerald Ford himself the child of a 1930s divorce President Ford noted that while agreeing with the legislation its intent he also had reservations stating the establishment of a parent locator service in the Department of Health Education and Welfare with access to all federal records raises serious privacy and administrative issues from its humble beginnings.  As a program designed to recover money expended by the government from absent parents whose children received welfare benefits. Child support enforcement has grown into a monstrous state and federal collaboration employing over fifty six thousand seven hundred people and a taxpayer costs in excess of five point seven seven billion dollars per year in the early 19th century the courts in America that were dealing with the cases of divorce and mental breakdowns found that current laws don’t provide for a support action America had inherited many English laws in the late 18th and early 19th 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 cost of support unless these costs had been pre-authorized by a contract with the with the child’s father but English 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 talent to recoup their relief costs any third parties are single mothers could not directly ask for reimbursement of support expenses despite the absence of a child crop provision within English laws the courts in America slowly began to tackle the notion that the father had a legal obligation to support his offspring one of the earliest American support cases with Stanton versus will soon 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 unisys children had been awarded to her by her 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 being recurring almost in every child support case decided by the courts in America during the 19th century primarily because newly divorced American mothers in the 19th 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 financial burdens of raising the child. 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 they were mainly 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 their non-supporting father as a support decree continued to develop after the 1850s. 

The courts began to use a two-part test to determine the basis for reimbursement first the court asked if the items provided by the plaintiffs were necessities that provided for the bear maintenance of the child. it’s up students of the children such as clothing and food or food second the course 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 it directly from their spouse for money they spent in supporting their offspring as was previously the case these mothers had to prove that 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 bear maintenance of the child by the late 19th century almost every state in the nation had on its books some legally enforceable duty for the father to support his children it is important to note that the system that was developing at this time only offered a means of support to Caucasian families slavery was which was prevalent in both the north and south did not allow for legal marriage at blacks no one did it allow black men to be considered head of household these men therefore and did not have the right and duties that made support of it under slavery black children did not have a legal father therefore there was no way that a black mother could seek compensation from their children’s father it was not until after the civil war their 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 John support becomes the law the laws continue to develop into the 20th 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 two 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 for this from the Secretary of Health Education and Welfare regarding the address and place of employment of a noncustodial 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 Resource 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 the parent locator service stayed up operational guidelines and a plan for periodic review of cases the people primary responsibility for operating the enforcement program was placed on each state these provisions were to come into effect by July 1st, 1975.

The next big year for child support laws was 1984 when the child support enforcement amendment was 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 interception and poverty liens 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 program most significantly the Act required the court 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 failed to pay a pass to child support payments with respect to a child who resides in another state. One of the most significant changes in support enforcement policy in recent years has been the ship toward addressing men’s roles as fathers. Legislation and that enacted in 1992 the personal responsibility and work opportunity reconciliation Act contains significant revisions in child support legislation that calls for the development of a number of social service programs aimed at 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 encourages child visitation and families where the parents do not live together the personal responsibility and work opportunity reconciliation also allowed for the creation of the new harvest database which apprised all employers to report information about newly hired employees. This allows shall support enforcement officials to track down deadbeat parents even across state lines and retrieve payments through income withholding.