Beyond Child Support - Public Assistance

A public assistance program can help parents who already receive child support. The programs offer assistance to cover basic needs.

If you receive child support payments from your child's other parent, it may not be enough. You might want more help with the financial parts of child-rearing. This includes aid for things like health care.

Read on for a brief overview of public assistance options for families.

State and Federal Child Support Public Assistance

The federal government offers public assistance to low-income and transitional families. All state governments do as well.

At the state level, a state agency or a state department runs public assistance programs. They can have various names, such as:

  • Human Services
  • Social Services
  • Health and Welfare
  • Health and Human Services

For example, Connecticut has the “Connecticut Department of Social Services." Michigan's agency is the “Michigan Department of Health and Human Services."

Federal agencies work differently. The department that handles government benefits depends on the type of assistance provided. For example, the Social Security Administration provides disability and supplemental security income. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers programs that help with food and nutrition.

Beyond Child Support: Public Assistance Options

Many public assistance resources are available to both children and adults, including:

  • Economic assistance
  • Health care
  • Abuse prevention

Other assistance services are only for children, such as child care and foster services. For example, the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides grants for states to help families in need.

Each state establishes its own specific family and child-related public assistance services. Most fall into three categories:

  1. Health care: Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but states may have different names. States may also offer prescription medication discounts.
  2. Financial assistance: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is where food stamps are available. Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provide money for nutrition assistance. Unemployment benefits are available for those who lose their jobs.
  3. Housing: This includes public housing, shelter/homeless assistance programs, eviction protections, foreclosure information, and rental assistance.

Besides financial assistance, states may offer services at little or no cost. These statewide programs can include:

  • Quality Health Care and Medical Assistance: State versions of Medicaid programs that provide health care services for low-income individuals
  • Child Care Services: Child care assistance programs to help care for children of all ages
  • Child Support Enforcement and Parent Locator Services: Child support services that help custodial parents obtain child support orders from non-custodial parents, open child support cases, collect child support payments, and locate parents to help them fulfill their child support obligations
  • Abuse and Neglect Prevention: Services to strengthen family bonds and prevent child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and all other forms of abuse and neglect
  • Behavioral Health Services: Services to address mental health issues such as individual counseling and support groups
  • Adoption and Foster Care Services: Services to support children in foster care, including transition into permanent homes and general support and advocacy for legal rights
  • Employment and Training: Services that feature back-to-work training, education, and skill reviews
  • Legal Services: Services that include Legal Aid programs, Self-help programs from bar associations, general legal advocacy, referrals to find free legal help or low-cost legal assistance/legal advice; services that help with child custody, child support, and other family court/family law issues

The federal government's Benefit Finder Tool helps match benefits with specific situations.

Eligibility Requirements for Public Assistance

If you're seeking public assistance, you must meet state specific eligibility requirements. Each state has its own standards. Here are common requirements:

  • A household income below a specified threshold
  • A minor child in a person's care
  • Family size

Most programs also require that an applicant is a U.S. citizen or a qualifying non-citizen. State public assistance programs and agencies have online eligibility information and application procedures.

Have Questions About Child Support Public Assistance? Talk to a Lawyer

Sometimes child support can't cover enough of your child's expenses. When that happens, public assistance may be available. If you have general questions about child support and public assistance, it's a good idea to talk to a lawyer. Contact a skilled child support lawyer who can provide information to you about your legal rights.

Was this helpful?

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Some states allow you to set up child support with forms and court processes
  • You may need legal help to set up or modify child support arrangements
  • If there is conflict, an attorney can advise if the other parent’s actions are legal 

Get tailored advice about paying or receiving child support. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child support arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

Start Planning