Session: Child Support, Procedural Justice, and the Courts (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

63 Child Support, Procedural Justice, and the Courts

Friday, January 14, 2022: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Independence BR F, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy
Symposium Organizer:
Yoona Kim, MSW, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Linda Mellgren, MPA, US Department of Health and Human Services and David Pate, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The presentations that comprise this symposium are at the nexus of the child support program, procedural justice practices, and the court system in the United States and overseas. Each incorporates the diverse perspectives of both custodial and noncustodial parents, or staff involved in the child support program or courts, lifting up the voices of those most impacted by, or directly involved in, implementing, child support and court policy. All papers interrogate how child support and family/civil court processes may be improved to produce fairer, more equitable services that enhance the wellbeing of all families.

The first paper, In Their Words: Parent Perspectives on Their Interactions with the Child Support Program from the PJAC Demonstration, describes the child support experiences of custodial and noncustodial parents whose cases had reached the point of a civil contempt filing due to noncustodial parents' noncompliance with their child support orders. The demonstration's control group proceeded to the standard civil contempt process, while the program group instead received procedural justice-informed services intended to help address their underlying reasons for nonpayment. These interviews will help unpack whether the efforts at incorporating procedural justice into child support services among program group members led to improved experiences from the parents' perspective. The second paper, "I Don't Have A Crystal Ball": Enforcing Child Support Obligations in the Era of COVID-19, focuses on practice changes undertaken by child support and court staff in response to the pandemic. Interestingly, many of the reported shifts in practice aligned with the PJAC service model, suggesting that staff members' descriptions of increased consideration of parents' circumstances during the pandemic ultimately led them to adopt more procedurally-just approaches. The third paper, Fair Treatment and Child Support Payments, further extends the exploration of the use of procedural justice in child support to understand whether improved perceptions of fairness among noncustodial parents led to increased payments to support children's wellbeing. Finally, Child Support Issues and Access to Justice: Evidence from Custodial Mothers in Colombia describes custodial mothers' response to child support issues such as nonpayment, highlighting the importance of enhancing their access to justice to find a remedy, especially for those socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The papers in this symposium leverage multiple research methods, from qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews to quantitative modeling. Presenters and discussants reflect diversity across lines of race/ethnicity, gender, nationality, affiliation, and discipline. The symposium is capped by two senior discussants, an academic with expertise in these topics and a policy leader from DHHS (now retired). Both will discuss the implications of these papers for social policy and practice. Additionally, this symposium explores timely topics such as (1) the adaptations to services made by social service agencies, such as the child support program, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the "new normal" likely to persist into a post-COVID world and (2) the growing emphasis on fair treatment in the legal system, and its implications for wellbeing of both custodial and noncustodial parents and their children.

* noted as presenting author
The COVID-19 Pandemic and Child Support Enforcement
Lisa Vogel, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Alejandra Ros Pilarz, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Laura Cuesta, PhD, Rutgers University
Fair Treatment and Child Support Payments
Daniel Meyer, PhD, University of Wisconsin - Madison; Yoona Kim, MSW, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Child Support Issues and Access to Justice: Evidence from Custodial Mothers in Colombia
Angela Guarin, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Laura Cuesta, PhD, Rutgers University
See more of: Symposia