Couples with child/children, but who decide to end their union or relationship through divorce still face the legal obligation of providing for all the needs of their child/children, particularly those below 18 years old. This provision is financial. It is called child support or child maintenance and is paid on a regular basis (usually monthly) to the custodial parent or (if any of the parents cannot perform the duty due to medical or other conditions or is not deemed fit by the court) to the guardian, caregiver or the government, for the child’s care and support.
Child support is one of the major concerns which spouses, or people who enter into a relationship and have a child, will need to settle due to divorce, separation, annulment/dissolution of a marital/civil union, or determination of parentage. Being a court order, payment of child support is, therefore, a legal obligation (which cannot be dismissed even upon declaration of bankruptcy). Non-payment of this court-ordered support is illegal under Federal law and those convicted can face fines and time in jail.
While the passing of the Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA) in 1992 made child support a major concern of the Federal government, the state and local authorities are the ones usually charged with the enforcement of the law. The joint effort, however, plus the CSRA and the method employed by the state in enforcing the law have proven totally effective and efficient, especially in determining the whereabouts of those who try to flee to other states to escape payment of child support (it is important to know that those who owe at least $2,500 in child support are not entitled to receive a U.S. passport. This mandate is from the U.S. Passports & International Travel of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. Upon settlement of owed amount it may still take the Passport Services 2-3 weeks before it gets approval to process passport application).
Cedar Rapids divorce lawyers can tell you that custodial parents have the right to ask government and law enforcement officials for help in seeking payment (from the obligor, who is the non-custodial parent required to pay the support) for child support or child support arrears. To better provide this help, “Title IV-D” agencies have been created in each state, with the maintenance of a State PLS (parent locator service) as one of its tasks.
Upon discovery of the obligor’s whereabouts, he/she can face federal prosecution if it can be proven that he/she willfully failed to pay child support for his/her child who resides in another state, or if he/she has skipped payment for more than 1 year or the amount owed is more than $5,000. The charge to this crime, though, was only a criminal misdemeanor until the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA) of 1998 made changes to make the charge more serious and the punishments, harsher.
Many lawyers emphasize the legality both of a child support agreement and the amount of support as determined by the court. This is why it is very important that the non-custodial parent adheres to the agreement or court order as payment of support is essential for the welfare of the child. Seeking the help of a qualified divorce lawyer during the divorce process is equally important as this will ensure the representation needed in fighting for the child’s best interests.