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Enforcing a Child Support Order Out of State

By: LawInfo
While a parent living out of state may make enforcing your child support order a bit tricky, it certainly doesn’t make it impossible.  The first step is to find the other parent’s address.  In some cases, this may require hiring a private investigator or using locator resources from your local child support office.  Every state has a parent locator service, and local child support offices have access to resources such as federal new hire data, state new hire data, unemployment insurance information, criminal and civil court records, credit bureau data, Bureau of Motor Vehicles information, and other similar sources of information.  In many cases, particularly if the other parent works, he or she will not be too hard to track down.  Once you have other parent’s address, you’re halfway there, because now the courts have a way to contact him or her.

One easy way to enforce your child support order when the other parent is out of state is to have the courts send a garnishment order directly to the other parent’s employer.  Under federal law, all employers must honor child support garnishment orders from other states.  An employer can’t refuse to garnish an employee’s wages for child support just because the garnishment order comes from another state.

If you don’t know where the other parent works, there is still hope for enforcing your child support order.  Every state has passed some version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“UIFSA”), which is a law that is designed specifically to enforce child support orders from one state against a parent who lives in another state.  By using UIFSA, which usually requires hiring an attorney or contracting with your local child support office, you can ask the courts, the child support agencies, and/or a private attorney in the state where the other parent is living to enforce your child support order.  The courts in that state must enforce your child support order just as if it was a child support order issued in that state. 

Many states also have criminal laws that govern child support orders.  If a parent fails to pay child support as ordered, your local prosecutor’s or district attorney’s office can file criminal nonsupport charges against the parent, even if he or she lives in another state.  Your state can extradite, or bring the parent back to your state from another state, because he or she is charged with a crime.  State felony nonsupport charges can result in various sanctions, including incarceration, home detention, and probation.

Failing to pay child support is also a federal crime, so you can ask the federal prosecutor or district attorney for your jurisdiction to bring charges against the other parent.  Like state criminal laws concerning non-payment of child support, the other parent can be incarcerated or placed on probation for failing to pay child support as ordered.

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