Child Support Enforcement Federal Criminal Law

Child support enforcement is a growing area of family law. Once child support has been ordered by a Court, or agreed upon by two parents, it is not always smooth sailing. Although we hear a lot about “deadbeat parents” (and there are both moms and dads who are deadbeats), the overwhelming majority of parents pay support and take care of their children as agreed upon or ordered. But, when that is not the case, you have to know how child support enforcement works.

Child support enforcmement in one form or another is available in every state for collecting against deadbeat parents. Those child support enforcement remedies include wage garnishment, intercepting tax refunds, suspending a driver’s or professional license, and more.

In addition to the child support enforcement remedies that the individual states provide, the is a federal remedy which is often overlooked, but which is very effective. That child support enforcement remedy is the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992.

Under the Child Support Recovery Act, the failure to pay child support, if willful, is a federal crime if the parent who owes support lives in a different state than the parent who is receiving the support. Relying on this criminal statute can be a very effect child support enforcement tool.

The purpose of the Federal Child Support Recovery Act was to prevent a parent from moving to a different state or a foreign jurisdiction for the purpose of evading a child support order. However, since we live in an incredibly mobile society, it is not unusual to have a support paying parent in one state and a support receiving parent living in another state. When that happens, the Federal Act is available as a remedy for interstate child child support enforcement.

A first offense under the Federal Child Support Recovery Act can result in a prison sentence of up to six months in addition to monetary fines. A second conviction can result in more jail time and greater fines.

The Child Support Recovery Act was amended in 1998 and is now know as the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act. The 1998 Act makes it a federal crime to travel to another state to avoid a child support obligation, if that support obligation is greater than $5000 and has remained unpaid for more than one year. If the obligation is greater than $10,000 and has remained unpaid for more than 2 years, if is a federal crime under the 1998 Deadbeat Parents Act simply to have not paid the child support.

The penalties available for child support enforcement under the 1998 Deadbeat Parents Act include prison sentences, fines and restitution. Restitution is the payment of money to the custodial parent in an amount equal to the child support arrearage existing at the time that the defendant is sentenced. Probation can also be imposed and can include conditions such as the payment of child support and mandatory employment. A violation of those terms of probation can result in the imposition of additional prison time.

If you are owed child support and the parent who is supposed to pay lives in another state, consult with an attorney to discuss whether the Federal Deadbeat Parents Act can help you with child support enforcement and collect the support due to you.

About the Author

Jean Mahserjian is an attorney and the author of numerous websites and books devoted to helping consumers through the process of divorce. To download free excerpts from her divorce and custody books, visit:

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