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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a guidance to Ohio and the other states across the country urging state directors to implement new child support requirements for recipients of a major food assistance program. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, serves around 40 million people across the country. Many SNAP recipients are single-parent families, especially as 37% of children in single-parent households are living in poverty. Now, the USDA is calling on state directors to implement a child support cooperation requirement in order for people to receive SNAP benefits.

Some argue that the reason why so many children in single-parent households live in poverty is because non-custodial parents fail to pay child support. Estimates indicate that there is a $13.5 billion gap between the amount of child support that custodial parents receive and the amount to which they should be entitled. In some cases, non-custodial parents are failing to pay in accordance with an existing child support agreement or order. However, in other cases, no such agreement exists, especially when the parents were never married and never went to family court. Some parents may also not want to disrupt informal support agreements that they have established.

However, if states adopt the USDA guidance, beneficiaries of the SNAP program would be required to cooperate with child support enforcement. This means not only paying as required under existing child support orders but also developing new child support agreements where none currently exist.

Single parents at all income levels may find themselves struggling to support their children’s lifestyle if the other parent fails to abide by a child support order. A family law attorney may help a single parent to obtain a support order or seek child support enforcement against a non-paying parent.