Skip to main content

Child Support Enforcement

Child Support Enforcement     

Child support enforcement matters are generally handled by state and local authorities, and not by the federal government.  Only in very limited circumstances is federal jurisdiction implicated in a child support matter.  For this reason, child support issues should be reported to state and local law enforcement authorities.
          There are a variety of state civil and criminal remedies for collecting child support.  In each state there are agencies, known as "Title IV-D" agencies, which are required by federal law to provide child support enforcement services to anyone who requests such services (For more information, see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement and U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Inspector General).       

Federal Child Support Laws

          Federal child support enforcement became possible with the passage of the Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA) in 1992.  The CSRA aimed to deter non-payment of State ordered support obligations through prosecution of the most egregious offenders.  While federal prosecution efforts were successful under the CSRA, some law enforcement agencies found that the simple misdemeanor penalties provided for under the Act did not have the force to deter the most serious violators.  The problem with enforcement under the CSRA was remedied with the passage of the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA) in 1998.  This Act created new categories of federal felonies for the most egregious child support violators.
        Federal law makes it illegal for an individual to willfully fail to pay child support as ordered by a court in certain circumstances.  Convicted offenders may face fines and imprisonment (For more information, see Citizen's Guide to Federal Law on Child Support Enforcement).

Updated August 11, 2023