In addition to providing emotional support to their children, fathers play a crucial role in their children’s development through the provision of financial support. Unmarried fathers provide financial support both formally through the child support system and informally without legal obligation. CFRP studies how the child support system can provide opportunities to strengthen families and child wellbeing.
* Explore CFRP's Fatherhood Resource Hub at fatherhoodresourcehub.org!
Federal regulations require that states conduct a review of their child support guidelines at least once every four years to ensure that states are establishing and modifying child support order amounts appropriately (45 CFR 302.56 (e)). As part of this process, states must “provide a meaningful opportunity for public input, including input from low-income custodial and non-custodial parents” during the review process (45 CFR 302.56 (h)). To help inform the state’s federally mandated review, CFRP is conducting a qualitative study to learn about the experiences of families in the Texas child support system, with a focus on understanding the similarities and differences in experiences of parents and how the child support system helps to meet the needs of their children.
All U.S. states are required to conduct a review of their child support guidelines every four years. The Texas child support guidelines were established in 1986 and biennial reports that have met the federal reporting requirements have been completed since that time. However, the state had not conducted a comprehensive review with recommendations for changes to the guidelines since the 1986 model was established. In the 82nd Texas legislative session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 716, which mandated that the state conduct a comprehensive review of its current child support guidelines. CFRP conducted the comprehensive review for the state, and in addition to the required components, CFRP integrated three additional topics: a review of the child support systems and guidelines of other states, an analysis of how various child support guideline recommendations affect the resources of custodial and noncustodial parents, and articulation of the views and concerns of stakeholders regarding the current guidelines and potential changes to the guidelines.
Cases involving active duty military personnel and veteran families within the child support system are more complex in nature than those of the general population. Some of the complications arise as a result of institutional barriers between the child support system and the military system. These complications are then compounded by challenges common to the nature of a service member’s job, such as multiple moves, pay changes, paternity establishment during deployment, multiple deployments, year-long absences, and physical and mental disabilities that result from military service. The Texas Office of the Attorney General-Child Support Division developed the Help Establishing Responsive Orders and Ensuring Support (HEROES) for Children in Military Families program to provide specialized support for active duty service members and veterans’ child support and parenting time needs. HEROES was designed to provide enhanced, family-centered child support services with the objectives of increasing compliance, ensuring accurate and timely establishment of support orders, preventing the accumulation of arrears, and supporting increased parenting cooperation. CFRP evaluated the implementation of the HEROES pilot program for the state. CFRP explored the unique challenges that military and veteran families face in regards to child support and parenting, how the HEROES program addressed these unique challenges, and identified the lessons learned that enhanced or limited the successful implementation of the program.