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Child Support Belongs to Children

California is transforming its child support system to direct more money to the children for whom the support payments are intended. This critical reform may seem like common sense, but only a few states have adopted a similar policy. For decades, federal law has required custodial parents who receive public benefits to assign their child support payments to the government as reimbursement for the cost of those benefits. As a result, when a noncustodial parent makes a child support payment, some of that payment could be intercepted and kept by the government.

In May, California took the first step to undo this harmful and misguided policy.  The state will no longer intercept child support payments intended for families who formerly received CalWORKs. This change means an estimated $160 million per year will go to families and children.. The state’s action is in response to years of advocacy, including ongoing efforts of the Western Center on Law & Poverty and its partners in the Truth and Justice in Child Support Coalition. You can learn more about the Coalition here and read the Coalition’s statement on this important policy victory.

Yetmore work to be done. California continues to intercept approximately $150 million each year from low-income families who currently receive CalWORKs, and this policy has resulted in over $6 billion dollars of government-owed child support that causes incalculable financial and social harm.

The interception of child support payments stems from racist and sexist stereotypes about black families and those who must turn to public assistance. California cannot close the racial wealth gap and end child poverty until it reforms the child support program. The Coalition’s letters to Legislative Budget Leaders asking them to continue to reform state child support policies to better support low-income children and their families can be found here.