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SNAP issues new guidance for parents

45174342_S.jpgThe Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides resources to about 40 million people in Illinois and across the country. It is not uncommon for children with only one parent to receive SNAP benefits. In fact, a child who only has one parent is 37% more likely to live in poverty compared to those who have both parents at home. This is partially because noncustodial parents do not comply with their financial obligations to their children.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked state SNAP administrators to make child support agreements a condition of participating in the program. In 2015, a majority of low-income custodial parents did not have a child support agreement in place. By taking steps to ensure that they are in place, it could help to close the child support gap in the United States.

The gap between what custodial parents are owed and what they actually receive is about $13.5 billion. Exemptions to the child support cooperation requirement can be made if doing so is in the best interest of the child. For instance, forcing a noncustodial parent into making formal payments could result in abuse of a custodial parent. It could also strain relationships between parents or between a parent and a child. The USDA guidelines give states other types of leeway to create programs that best serve the needs of their residents.

Courts typically take child support enforcement seriously, which means that parents could face serious consequences for not following a support order. However, if an individual is truly struggling to make payments, it may be possible to modify an order in the future. Noncustodial parents may be able to help their children by providing emotional or other forms of support in addition to their monthly payments.

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