Child support is a court-ordered obligation to help with the financial responsibilities of raising a child. Unfortunately, there are parents who choose not to pay their child-support obligations. The United States federal government recognizes that there is a negative impact on families in which child support is not paid. In an effort to help children, the government took steps to help children and families and made it a federal crime to willingly ignore child support obligations.
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Child Support Recovery Act
In 1992, a law was passed in the United States making it a federal crime to intentionally "not pay a child support obligation for a child living in another state." There were known cases of parents who owed child support who would move frequently to other states, report false information (such as Social Security Numbers and names) or do other similar things in order to avoid paying child support.
Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act
In 1998, the federal government placed another law into effect to help enforce the Child Support Recovery Act. The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act states that those parents found guilty of intentionally not paying child support could face criminal penalties such as fines and jail time.
Every state in the United States has a Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program. Though each state may operate under different laws, all CSE Programs follow federal guidelines. This ensures that enforcement of the federal acts can be enforced and help those families needing child support.
Different states offer different methods of enforcing child support collection. Usually these methods are used prior to the enforcement of the federal criminal procedures.
Income Withholding Orders
An Income Withholding Order (IWO) is the order sent to the parent's employer stating the amount of child support to withhold from wages earned. Federal guidelines state that if a parent who owes child support has a job, an IWO should be used as an easy and efficient way to collect the child support obligation.
An IWO is not a criminal penalty used against someone who owes child support but rather a positive tool to prevent problems. With an IWO in place, the possibility of skipped or missed payments by the parent owing child support is minimized.
Federal Penalties Used to Enforce Child Support
As a general rule, when a child support obligation is delinquent more than a year and/or is more than $5,000 past due, federal penalties can be used. • Federal Tax Refund Interception: If a parent is owed a refund by the federal government but in turn owes delinquent child support, then the refund can be taken. The refund is then applied to the delinquent child support balance.
• Passport Sanction: CSE programs typically assist the federal government by monitoring the amount of delinquent child support owed. When the parent meets the requirement for federal penalties due to delinquent child support, a passport sanction is put into place and is not released until the obligation is paid. • Contempt of Court: Child support is a court-ordered obligation. When a parent fails to pay child support, he is ignoring a judge's ruling, which is illegal and taken very seriously. When found in contempt of court, a person may have to pay a fine to the court and serve a jail sentence.