Pursuing Child Support: More Violence?

Publication Date: May 1997

Publisher: Center for Law and Social Policy

Author(s): Paula Roberts

Research Area: Social conditions

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Victims of domestic violence often seek public assistance in order to escape from and/or remain free of this violence. However, in order to be eligible for public assistance, a mother must assign her child support rights to the state. Unless she can claim an exemption, she must also cooperate with the estate in establishing paternity (if that is an issue), obtaining a support order, and enforcing that order. Unfortunately, the pursuit of child support can and often does engender more violence. The result will largely depend on what policies states adopt in the next year.

To help advocates develop positions on the issues, this paper begins by describing the child support assignment and cooperation requirements that domestic violence victims had to face under the Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Then it delineates the provisions contained in the recently enacted Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996--federal legislation which abolishes AFDC and creates a new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Finally, it offers some suggestions for how to approach the issues raised by the new law.