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A Win-Win Partnership: MRE and Child Support Enforcement.


The nation's Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program is a federal/state/tribal/local partnership to promote family self-sufficiency and child well-being. In most states, approximately half of all child support orders are established and enforced by a federal and state financed child support enforcement entity known as the IV-D program (from Title IV-D of the Social Security Act). About one-third of all children in the United States will receive some assistance from CSE and approximately 58 percent of CSE cases involve never-married parents. Services are available to a parent with custody of a child (or the ""custodial parent"") whose other parent is living outside the home (or the "non-custodial parent"). Services are available automatically for families receiving assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

CSE has traditionally been a legally-driven program; within the past decade the program has begun to explore the preventative and family-focused approach. CSE programs are evolving as the reasons why some parents do not pay their court ordered child support--even with enforcement activities such as wage assignments and suspension of professional and driving licenses in place--are becoming better understood. The reasons that have emerged seem to revolve around the parents' relationship, not the legal aspect of the child support order.

Improving child outcomes is common ground between CSE and Marriage and Relationship Education (MRE) programs. Parents who maintain a healthy relationship with one another, even if they are not romantically involved, are typically better able to co-parent. In fact, a strained relationship between co-parents is the primary reason why many parents fail to pay child support. Relationship education services can be an excellent intervention for families who are struggling with co-parenting and child support payments. This Tip Sheet provides ideas to help MRE practitioners create and sustain partnerships with CSE. (Author abstract)