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Child support agreements could help secure food-related benefits

Parents ending a marriage in Texas and other parts of the country sometimes have difficulty securing assistance they may need to purchase food. This is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging states to use child support cooperation requirements as an additional tool to help single spouses with children secure the support they need.

The USDA sent letters to officials responsible for their state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The memo states a belief that both custodial and non-custodial parents should be required to submit child support cooperation agreements as part of the requirement for receiving benefits. The move is generally welcomed since nearly 40% of children with one parent not living in the home live in poverty. SNAP serves approximately 40 million people in the U.S.

Part of the reason why single parents are more likely to have income issues is because of poor-paying non-custodial spouses. The USDA hopes that the suggested steps discussed in the memo will close the gap between what custodial parents are entitled to receive and what they actually receive. Nationwide, this deficit is estimated to be nearly $14 billion. The memo also urges state agencies to be aware of circumstances that may not be in the best interest of children, such as the possibility of increasing hostility between former spouses if child support is being paid begrudgingly.

A child support attorney has no control over SNAP requirements, but a lawyer may work to structure a child support agreement in a way that's fair and mutually beneficial for both parents and the children involved. An attorney may also be able to take steps to secure back payments or address issues with repeated delinquencies. If such matters can't be resolved amicably, possible solutions include wage garnishment, freezing bank accounts and seeking a contempt order from the court.

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