Does Getting Food Stamps Automatically Place the Father on Child Support?

By Mary Jane Freeman - Updated June 19, 2017
Mother and daughter carrying a bag of groceries

When you apply for food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, you'll be asked about your finances. This includes being asked if the father of any children you may have is providing financial support. If not, enrolling in SNAP won't automatically obligate him to pay child support. But it will lead to a child support case being opened by your local child support enforcement agency. As a condition of receiving food assistance, you'll be expected to help them locate your child's father and establish a support order.

Child Support Established by Court Order

Parents are required to support the children they bring into the world. If you have custody of your children and their father is not financially contributing to their upbringing, you can take him to court to establish a child support order. If you are divorcing your husband, the court is likely to establish one during the proceedings and place the terms in your divorce decree. Typically, the parent who does not provide a home for the child, known as the noncustodial parent, pays child support to the one who does.

Receiving Food Stamps Requires Assisting Child Support Authorities

If you apply for food stamps and a child support order is not in place, the food assistance program will likely require you to cooperate with the local child support enforcement agency to track down your child's father and establish an order as a condition of receiving benefits. If you don't cooperate, especially without a legitimate reason, you could be denied food stamps or removed from the program if already enrolled. If you are a victim of domestic violence, this requirement may be waived.

Child Support Order Created After Paternity Established

Although procedures can vary in different states, the local child support enforcement agency will typically open a child support case on your child's behalf. The first step in establishing a support order is determining paternity. You will be asked to identify your child's father, where he lives and works, and his Social Security number, if you know it. You also will be expected to appear in court and testify at any necessary court proceedings. Once the paternity of your child is established, either through the father's admission or by court order after genetic testing, a child support order is created.

TANF Benefits Affect Your Child Support Payments

If you also enroll in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), a national program that provides temporary cash assistance to families with dependent children, you will not receive your child support payments. This is because your right to child support is temporarily assigned to the state, which receives it instead. However, this only lasts while you're receiving TANF benefits. The funds are used to reimburse the state for the cash benefits provided to you while you're enrolled. Depending on your state's policy, you may be entitled to the first $50 of child support collected each month and any money left over after the state is reimbursed.

About the Author

Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.

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