Legal Aid attorneys Meridel Bulle-Vu, Tianna Gibbs, and Ashley McDowell recently co-authored an article titled, "Developments in Family Law in the District of Columbia: Three Significant Legislative Changes for Child Support," published in the Spring 2015 issue (Volume 18, Number 2) of the UDC Law Review. The article provides an overview of three critical changes to District law in the past ten years: 1) the enactment of a statute that requires criminal sentencing judges to notify obligors of their right to modify or suspend their child support orders during periods of incarceration; 2) the passage of a law requiring the District government to distribute the first $150 of child support collected each month to custodial parents who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and 3) major revisions to the District's Child Support Guideline, the statutory scheme governing how child support orders are calculated.
These legislative changes were enacted with the support of practitioners and community stakeholders, and they have had a huge impact on our client community. The Incarcerated Obligor Statute allows non-custodial parents facing incarceration to seek a suspension of their child support order, preventing them from leaving jail facing months, years, or even decades of accrued child support debt. The pass-through law benefits families living in poverty by providing low-income custodial parents with up to $150 per month in additional income -- a significant amount for TANF recipients, and by giving non-custodial parents even more incentive to meet their child support obligations on time. Finally, revisions to the Guideline mean that courts now focus more explicitly on low-income non-custodial parents' ability to pay. Significantly, the revised Guideline clearly addresses how to account for various public benefits, such as SNAP (food stamps) and Supplemental Security Income -- both critical sources of support for our client community.
An online edition of this article is not yet publicly available.