From Grant-Funded Study to Enduring Practice

How Agencies in the Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt Demonstration Continued Their Work After Research Ended

The Procedural Justice-Informed Alternatives to Contempt (PJAC) demonstration integrated principles of procedural justice into child support enforcement practices. Procedural justice refers to the perception of fairness in processes that resolve disputes and result in decisions. Research has shown that if people perceive a process to be fair, they will be more likely to comply with the outcome of that process, whether or not the outcome is favorable to them.

Child support agencies aim to secure payments from noncustodial parents to support the financial well-being of their children. The PJAC demonstration targeted noncustodial parents who were at the point of being referred to the legal system for civil contempt of court because they had not met their child support obligations, yet had been determined to have the ability to pay by child support agency staff members. The goal of PJAC services was to address noncustodial parents’ reasons for nonpayment, promote their positive engagement with the child support agency and the custodial parent, and improve the consistency and completeness of their payments. The PJAC demonstration was developed by the Office of Child Support Enforcement within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

After a competitive process, six child support agencies across the United States were awarded grants to implement the PJAC model. As part of the demonstration, grantee child support agencies operated PJAC services from late 2017 through September 2021. After the study ended, participating agencies had the flexibility to determine whether to continue to use procedural justice principles, and if so, how. The research team conducted eight interviews with program managers and former PJAC case managers in August 2022 to learn how each agency continued using procedural justice. This brief presents the findings from those interviews and describes how the child support agencies that took part in PJAC have continued to deploy the principles of procedural justice.

West, Keri. 2023. “From Grant-Funded Study to Enduring Practice.” New York: MDRC.