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Addressing interstate child support issues

Photo of Karen Lavin


In Illinois and elsewhere, when parents split a gaggle of issues can arise. One of those is child support. Usually child support follows statutory guidelines that require the parent who does not live with the child (that is, the noncustodial parent) to pay child support. The amount will be determined through a child support formula. If the noncustodial parent fails to make good on the obligation, the state may be able to step in and force payments by garnishing wages, taking tax refunds and more.

But what happens when a child lives in Illinois while the noncustodial parent lives in a bordering state? What happens when that parent fails to meet their child support obligation?

Enter federal law. Federal law includes two acts: the Child Support Recovery Act and the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act. The Child Support Recovery Act came first. It tried to stop delinquent payments by making the failure to pay child support a federal criminal offense. But federal agencies quickly noted a weakness: the punishments under the CSRA were too lenient to adequately deter non-payment. Following that recognition, the federal government beefed up punishment via the DPPA. Unlike the CSRA, which made failure to pay a misdemeanor, the DPPA made failure to pay a felony. That shift means bigger fines and longer jail sentences for those convicted of not meeting their child support obligation.

The two laws make failure to pay child support a serious offense for out-of-state noncustodial parents. Illinoisans going through multi-state child support issues may benefit from discussing them with an experienced family law attorney.

Source: justice.gov, "Child Support Enforcement," accessed on March 16, 2015

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