In this article we sketch an overview of the increasing federal involvement in the child-support area. Because the federal role has grown so dramatically over the past 25 years, family law practitioners need to understand the different federal programs and requirements that affect state management of child-support programs. While for many low-income parents state agencies handle child-support establishment and collection, the federalization of child support has practical implications when it comes to both establishing and enforcing child support. For example, as the time limits of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act begin to have their effects, child support may become a supplement more and more needed by custodial parents.

We begin this article with a brief history of the changing nature of federal involvement in child support-focusing on the origins of the federally mandated state child-support departments (“IV-D” agencies)-and then examine the development of mandatory child-support guidelines. We conclude with a listing of the implications of the federalization of child support for the family law practitioner.

Naomi R. Cahn & Jean C. Murphy, Collecting Child Support: A History of Federal and State Initiatives, 34 Clearinghouse Review 165–185 (2000).
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