The financial commitment of parents, as well as their involvement with their children’s upbringing, is very important to the welfare of children. In recent years, the focus of many State Legislatures has been to ensure that children receive the support they need even though they may not live with both of their parents. However, the goal can be problematic when parents reside in different states. To overcome interstate obstacles in the field of child support, a majority of the states, as well as the Federal Government, have recently coordinated their efforts in cases involving the establishment of paternity, child support orders, medical support, and enforcement to help parents in collecting child support.
The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, with input from a variety of state child support enforcement offices, has recently developed the National Electronic Child Support Resource System to assist in the collection of child support. The goal of the system is to identify and electronically index resources that are available to parents seeking assistance with the enforcement of existing support orders. The system provides both the private user and the child support enforcement employee with access to a wealth of child support enforcement information including a log of all active paternity and child support orders within a particular state, a database of various state laws regarding child support enforcement, and a centralized communication system between enforcement agencies from different states. The system also offers a service whereby an agency can locate a delinquent parent and determine the exact amount of arrears owed.
While the Federal and State governments have coordinated and increased their efforts to collect on existing child support orders, the penalties for non-payment remain essentially the same as before. A party who fails to pay child support may be subject to one or more of the following, even if that party resides in another state:
- driver’s license suspension
- bank account seizure
- IRS and/or State Revenue tax intercept
- interception of lottery winnings
- negative credit reports
- garnishment of income
- loss of professional licenses
- jail sentence
In addition to these remedies, if the non-custodial parent’s place of employment is known, a party can immediately begin wage withholding from the other parent’s paycheck. If an agency or individual experiences difficulty in obtaining one of the above sanctions, the national network now allows them to request assistance with collection of child support from the other state, whose office will take over the case.
If all civil remedies fail to produce results in the collection of child support payments, an individual or support enforcement agency may choose to refer the case to the United States Attorney’s office. The United States Attorney’s office is responsible for prosecuting cases under the Federal Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 and the Deadbeat Parent’s Punishment Act of 1998. Both Acts allow a case to be prosecuted at a federal level if the case meets certain criteria. The criteria are:
- Past due child support must be $5,000.00 or greater
- The children must be under the age of majority
- All civil remedies have been exhausted at the state level
- One of the parties resides outside the state of the original order
- No payments of any amount have been received for the past 12 consecutive months
- There is evidence that the non-custodial parent had the ability to pay and willfully failed to do so.
- There is proof that the non-custodial parent had knowledge of the child support obligation
The non-payment of child support across the country has grown to such a level, that the problem can no longer be ignored. As explained above, the recent efforts of both Federal and State governments to coordinate enforcement programs will assist the individual parents by clarifying and expediting the information in the case. Ultimately, children will benefit from the efforts when they receive the financial support to which they are entitled.