Child Support




America inherited its early child support laws from English laws in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Generally these laws held that a father had only a non-enforceable moral duty to support his children, rather than a legal duty. The one exception to this rule authorized local towns to recover some of the money spent on caring for single mothers and their children, when the father was not present. This exception would only apply, however, when the mother and children were completely impoverished. In addition, the law allowed the town to recoup their relief costs but did not permit single mothers themselves to directly request reimbursement for child support expenses.

Despite this absence of an explicit child support provision in English law, American courts slowly began to tackle the notion that a father had a legal obligation to support his offspring. Faced with a growing number of divorces and abandoned mothers, Congress passed the first Federal child support enforcement legislation in 1950. The law required the State to notify law enforcement officials when it the need arose to provide aid to children who had been abandoned or deserted by a parent.

Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, States’ child support enforcement powers continued to grow, culminating in the 1965 amendments to the Social Security Act. The law expanded the partnership between the state, local, and federal governments by enabling States to obtain information from the federal government concerning the whereabouts and employment of non-custodial parents who owed support under a court order.

The main backbone of modern child support law, Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, was signed into law on January 4, 1975. The law created the official Child Support Enforcement Program (CSEP), and shifted primary responsibility for enforcement from the federal government to individual states. Throughout the seventies and eighties, the law was amended and refined, establishing systems and procedures that made it easier for states to secure support payments from non-custodial parents. Title IV-D authorized collection procedures, such as mandatory income withholding and income execution, as well as expedited systems for establishing and enforcing support orders, such as income tax refund interceptions and property liens.

The Family Support Act of 1988 made several important changes to the Child Support Enforcement Program. Most significantly, the act required states to create and regularly review standardized guidelines for establishing support amounts. It also required Courts to use these guidelines in setting support amounts.

One of the most significant changes in support enforcement policy in recent years has been represented by the policy shift towards addressing men’s roles as fathers. Legislation enacted in 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, called for the development of a number of social services programs aimed towards working with fathers to pay child support.


The Child Support Enforcement Program (CSEP) is jointly administered at the federal, State, and local level by the child support enforcement and the civil legal criminal justice systems.

At the federal level, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families works with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In New York State, the child support enforcement program is supervised by the Department of Child Support Enforcement within the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), and administered by a network of 58 local county Child Support Enforcement Units (CSEU).

New York City’s CSEU is the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) within the Human Resources Administration. The child support program in NYC is administered by the OCSE and by New York City’s Family Court System.


Funding for New York’s child support enforcement initiatives comes primarily from federal funding authorized by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act – also known as the Child Support Enforcement Program. States are required to provide support enforcement services to parents in order to receive funding.

States can also receive grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice for the purpose of developing, implementing and enforcing criminal interstate child support legislation, and for the coordination of criminal interstate child support enforcement efforts.

Summary of the Child Support Program

The Child Support Enforcement Program (CSEP), under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, is a joint federal, State, and local effort to collect child support from individuals who are legally obligated to support dependent children. Child support enforcement programs are also known as “IV-D” programs.