USDA pushing states to tie SNAP to child support

On May 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a memo urging Texas and other states to take better advantage of available child support cooperation requirements to help custodial parents receive the child support payments they are due. The USDA wants states to begin requiring that parents enter into child support agreements to qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits.

SNAP currently helps almost 40 million Americans pay for food, and many of those beneficiaries are single parents. Statistics show that approximately 37% of children living in single-parent households live in poverty, which is a much higher poverty rate than that of children living with two parents. One of the reasons that kids with single parents are stuck in poverty is because non-custodial parents fail to provide enough child support. In 2015, less than 50% of low-income custodial parents had a child support agreement in place. However, 15 years ago, that number was around 60%.

Experts say the USDA's push to tie SNAP benefits to child support payment agreements could help get the agreement rate trending upward again. There is currently a $13.5 billion gap between the amounts that custodial parents are owed and what they're actually receiving. On the other hand, critics say that requiring child support agreements to qualify for SNAP benefits could anger some non-custodial parents and put certain custodial parents and children at risk for abuse and violence. To address this real concern, the USDA says that states should allow exemptions for situations where child support cooperation could be "against the best interest of the child."

A family law attorney may be able to help parents negotiate fair child custody and child support agreements with the other parent. If the non-custodial parent fails to meet the terms of these agreements, the attorney may take legal action designed to compel compliance.

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