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Federal laws governing child support enforcement

Washington State has its own set of laws that govern child support. However, in exceptional cases there are federal laws may also be enforced in order to address issues of child support delinquency. Those laws are contained in Title IV Part-D of the Social Security Act, which requires that agencies operating under its jurisdiction to help state agencies and custodial parents to enforce child support.

Federal child support enforcement laws can be traced back to the Child Support Recovery Act, which attempted to deter non-custodial parents from failing to pay child support. Defaulters faced misdemeanor charges under this act for not complying with court orders. Legislators, however, realized that misdemeanor charges were not sufficient for serious offenders and, therefore, implemented the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, which treated certain extreme cases of child support delinquency as felonies.

Current federal laws related to child support enforcement consider willful delinquency illegal and the laws detail the circumstances under which a child support delinquent may face federal prosecution. Criminal charges for child support delinquency can range from misdemeanors to felonies and they are accompanied by severe punishments, based on the gravity of the offense, in the event of a conviction.

For example, federal prosecutors will file misdemeanor charges if the parent fails to make child support payments for a child who lives in a different state. Again, for a child living in the same state, if the outstanding child support is in excess of $5,000 for more than a year, that child's non-custodial parent will face misdemeanor charges. Under similar circumstances, if the outstanding amount is $10,000 or greater, the charges are upgraded to a felony. Additionally, delinquent parents may also have to serve time in prison.

Federal child support enforcement laws also address another major concern, which is the disappearance of delinquents. For example, if a non-custodial parent has outstanding child support in excess of $5,000 or if that parent has not paid child support for two years, that parent cannot leave Washington State because federal child support enforcement laws consider that to be an offense, which carries stiff fines and a jail sentence of up to two years.

Source: Justice.gov, "Citizen's Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Support Enforcement," Accessed on Feb. 24, 2015

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