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Federal government's role in child-support enforcement

Photo of Karen Lavin


Having a child can be wonderful thing. It can bring joy, exhilaration and a legacy. But it also provides many new, significant responsibilities. One responsibility is financial--paying for food, clothing, shelter and so much more. When those elements mix with split parenting, the resulting brew can be contentious.

That's no surprise. After all, the financial aspects of split parenting can be difficult. One parent spends most of the time with their child. The other parent must provide support. Striking a balance between what the noncustodial parent's view of how much raising a child should cost and how much it actually costs the custodial parent to do so can be far apart. For that, and other reasons, a parent may not pay.

When that happens, Illinoisans can sometimes, but not always, count on the state's help. Sometimes the state is not enough. In those cases, it may be necessary to seek the federal government's assistance via its authority under 18 U.S.C. ยง 228, which sometimes makes it illegal for a non-custodial parent to pay child support.

When might it be necessary? When the parents do not live in the same state. If so, the state court that issued the child-support order may not have jurisdiction to enforce its order. The federal government will step in to resolve the state court's limited jurisdiction.

What is the penalty if a parent runs afoul of federal law? That depends. If a parent owes more than $5,000 or is more than a year late on payments, the parent has committed a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison. If a parent owes in excess of $10,000 or is more than two years late on payments, the parent is guilty of a felony punishable by up two years in prison.

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

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