For anyone struggling to keep home and hearth together, the recent “news” and other sources that poverty affects decision-making is no news at all. Virginians who depend on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) know that getting out of the grind of poverty is hugely challenging. Adding divorce and child support to the mix only makes every move more complicated, with unsettling ramifications for Virginia’s men.
How TANF Works
People who are not under severe economic strain often disparagingly refer to “welfare,” as if a single program existed for providing support to economically disadvantaged Virginians.
Our country and state has no single umbrella program, and TANF is only one method of providing short-term funds to struggling Virginia families with children. TANF is limited-time, minimal money from Virginia to keep Virginia’s underprivileged children fed, clothed, and housed.
As Virginia’s Department of Social Services says, TANF provides monthly cash payments to meet basic needs. A child residing in Virginia is eligible if:
- Under age 18, or if 18, will graduate from high school before age 19
- Going to school regularly if she or he is between the ages of five and 18
- Living with a parent or other relative
- A U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant
Applying for TANF help and meeting the standards for that help is complicated, despite popular misconceptions that just anybody can get “free money.” Once a family is in the system, however, Virginia’s state government can expedite child support by applying on your behalf as a family already receiving assistance.
Child Support and TANF
If your children are getting benefits through TANF, Virginia’s Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) will generally apply for child support from the non-custodial parent on behalf of the children and custodial parent.
The motivation for DCSE to apply for child support is to reduce the taxpayer burden by compelling the non-custodial parent to pay child support, which then reduces TANF payments.
A parent who has care of children and is owed child support should check with DCSE to ensure an application for TANF has been made; sometimes errors occur in the state system.
The obvious flaw in the state’s reduction of TANF payments is that not every non-custodial parent pays child support as required. The TANF payments could be reduced or stopped but the parent obligated to pay child support may not be paying. This is a double blow to the children affected.
A custodial parent entitled to child support from the non-custodial parent (whether the couple was married and divorced, or never married) can turn to DCSE for help with back child support. DCSE has many tools to extract that money from the non-custodial parent, including:
- Garnishment of wages
- Interception of tax refunds
- Suspension of professional and drivers’ licenses
- Property liens
- Reporting child support debts to credit agencies
If you are the custodial parent and are owed child support, between your attorney and DCSE you have strong advocates. You should not place yourself in the midst of that fight, nor should you withhold your children for their parenting time visits.
What if I Owe Child Support?
Many Virginia men find themselves struggling to meet child support payments. They may owe the TANF system and child support, and cannot meet both obligations. Fortunately, DSS provides a Debt Compromise Program 2018 to parents who owe TANF debt under a Virginia court or administrative order.
The Debt Compromise Program’s intention is to encourage regular child support payments by offering eligible parents a reduction in TANF debt owed. The program has three tiers of participation based on a parent’s ability to pay.
The rules for calculating income, excluding some income, and establishing TANF amounts are very complicated. They comprise an 87-page manual from DSS, so the typical Virginia man can be forgiven if he does not understand how TANF can be reduced for child support payments, or (conversely), income diverted from a paycheck to pay back child support can be included in calculating TANF for a child.
As DSS explains, “Benefits from which child support can be withheld include, but are not limited to, Social Security benefits, Veteran’s benefits, Unemployment benefits, and Workers Compensation benefits.”
If you feel hemmed in by economic realities and worry you cannot afford an attorney to help you navigate TANF, child support, and all the other legal issues you are contending with, think again: making a mistake through your ignorance of the TANF process may be forgivable but extremely expensive. This applies whether you owe child support to a custodial mother receiving TANF or are yourself receiving TANF money and are the custodial father. Use your attorney to help determine what is owed, to whom, and how your children can be protected throughout the process.
Call The Firm For Men’s Child Support Attorneys
At The Firm For Men, 757-383-9184, we help all our male clients, without regard to economic situation. We feel men’s rights in Virginia are worth preserving, so when you contact us online or stop by our Virginia Beach office, we will work hard for you whether your children are receiving TANF or they are living in the lap of luxury.