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What are the federal child support enforcement laws?

Most matters related to child support in Arizona are governed by state laws. However, there are certain exceptional cases where federal child support enforcement laws may apply. Those laws date back to the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 or CSRA, which was meant to deter non-custodial parents from ignoring a child support order and prosecutes those parents whose child support delinquency is of greater concern.

The CSRA only levied misdemeanor charges for child support delinquency, which, unfortunately, did not prove to be strict enough for serious child support delinquents. Congress passed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act or DPPA in 1998. According to the provisions of the DPPA, authorities started considering serious cases of child support delinquency as felonies and imposed penalties accordingly.

The CSRA and DPPA clearly state that it is illegal for a non-custodial parent to not pay child support willfully. In fact, those acts clearly state the circumstances under which a non-custodial parent can face prosecution for non-payment of child support. The federal charges that such child support delinquents can attract can range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the seriousness of the offense that was committed.

For example, a non-custodial parent could be charged with a misdemeanor for not complying with a child support order that was issued in the interest of a child who lives in another state. A non-custodial parent can also face misdemeanor charges if the outstanding child support obligations exceed $5,000 or if the obligations are unpaid for more than one year. A non-custodial parent, however, faces felony charges if the outstanding child support is $10,000 or more or if the child support has not been paid for more than two years.

Additionally, crossing state borders or leaving the country when the outstanding child support amount is more than $5,000 or the child support amount is outstanding for more than one year is also considered a felony offense by federal child support enforcement laws. For all offenses, the penalties can range from fines and up to six months in prison for a misdemeanor and up to two years in prison for a felony.

Those dealing with child support enforcement issues or other issues related to child support should understand the options available to him or her. This could help parents take timely action, protecting the needs and interests of the children involved.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice: "Citizen's Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Support Enforcement," July 6, 2015.

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