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Learn About TANF and Child Support
If you receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, then you should know that benefits affect your child support payments.
When you receive TANF benefits and child support payments, you are obligated to waive your right to child support and turn it over to the state. The state will collect payments on your behalf and retain them to recoup the cost of paying for your benefits. In some cases, the state will allow you to get a small portion of the child support payments.
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Parents receiving child support should consider the maximum TANF benefits available to them when considering applying. If the benefits are significantly lower than the child support payments, then applying for benefits may result in an overall drop in income.
To learn more about how child support affects overall TANF benefits, download our free guide. The sections below describe how TANF affects child support, how TANF is funded and how much money someone may be able to get.
How TANF Affects Child Support
As long as you are receiving benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, you must waive your right to child support. Failure to comply with child support requirements may result in a rejection of your benefits application. A majority of states will claim your child support benefits up to the amount of TANF benefits you are eligible to receive.
States are allowed to do this in order to reimburse themselves for the cost of giving you benefits. Therefore, for the duration of time that you are receiving benefits, you may receive little or no child support.
How exactly TANF affects child support varies from state to state. About half of the states have pass-through laws, giving you up to $100 or a percentage of the child support payment. However, many have no pass-throughs in place and will claim all of your child support income.
For example, Illinois will grant you up to $100 for one child and $200 for multiple children when you receive both TANF and child support. Minnesota allows you to retain your full child-support benefits and disregard some of it as income when determining TANF eligibility.
On the other hand, states like Alabama, Arizona and Idaho do not allow any pass-through amount, retaining your full child support instead.
Additionally, if you are eligible to receive both TANF and child support, you must fully cooperate with state efforts to obtain child support. That means if you are eligible for child support but have not pursued it, then you must now cooperate with state efforts to locate the parent and claim child support.
This can include establishing paternity and establishing or enforcing payment orders. In a few states, such as North Dakota, you have the option to not pursue child support. This is only if you have a “good cause,” such as concerns related to domestic violence. Typically, however, you must pursue child support to get TANF benefits.
Why do states claim child support payments?
Many states require those receiving both TANF and child support to forfeit their child support payments to the state. This is because states are recouping the cost of providing TANF benefits to families through the child support payments. States are issued a block grant from the federal government of $16.5 billion.
In addition, states must match at least $10.3 billion in spending for the program. However, states have some flexibility in how they spend that funding because it comes in a block grant. Instead of mandating how the states spend money, the federal government has guidelines on what goals the funding should further.
When a state providing TANF claims child support payments, those payments are then distributed evenly between the state and the federal government.
Most states’ TANF and child support programs are financially connected. In many cases, states spend the majority of their child support resources obtaining payment that goes directly to families. In those cases, the state receives no payment for assisting in the child support extraction. Therefore, states claim child support benefits from TANF recipients partially in order to lower the cost of providing child support enforcement overall.
How is child support paid across states?
There are two factors to consider when calculating how TANF affects child support payments. The first is how much actual child support payment a family can get while receiving TANF benefits. The second is whether child support benefits are calculated as part of a family’s overall income when considering program eligibility. Policies vary greatly from state to state. However, generally, states that issue some funding will also not count it towards income.
For beneficiaries of both TANF and child support, about half of states do not issue a “pass through” for any amount. That means TANF recipients get none of the child support payments they are eligible for while they receive TANF benefits. Instead, the state collects all of the child-support benefits in order to reimburse itself and the federal government for providing benefits.
In the majority of states that do issue a pass-through payment, funding is capped at $50 or $100. That means TANF beneficiaries eligible for child support would only get the pass-through payment in child support. In a few states, the policy also allows TANF beneficiaries to receive child support payments “up to unmet need.”
In such states, caseworkers add up the family’s monthly income and TANF benefits. If those funds total less than the standard of need, then child support is issued to families to meet the need. Finally, in a select number of states like Minnesota, those receiving both TANF and child support can receive the full child support payment.
The second part of the equation is whether those getting both TANF and child support consider the latter part of their income. In a majority of states, child support payments must be considered part of a family’s monthly income when determining eligibility. In states that allow pass-throughs, that amount is typically disregarded from income.
That means if someone receives $100 in pass-through child support payments, then it is not included in income to determine if he or she meets TANF requirements. In a few states, only a particular amount can be disregarded. For example, in Minnesota, $100 can be disregarded for one child after beneficiaries receive the full child support payment.
To learn more about what kind of payments one can expect from TANF, download our helpful free guide.