When Child Support Becomes a Federal Issue

When Child Support Becomes a Federal Issue

Child support issues are typically handled at the state court level. County courts and state child support agencies are responsible for enforcing orders and collecting payments. However, it is possible for a family law case to become a matter of federal law. The Child Support Recovery Act (CRSA) allows the federal government to prosecute parents who willfully fail to comply with state ordered support.  

The Source of Federal Child Support Law  

 The statute addressing the failure to comply with child support orders is 18 U.S.C. Section 228. Under this section it is illegal to miss child support payments to a spouse in another state. In order for this section to apply there must be a lawful order in place issued by a court or tribal jurisdiction.  

The first section of this statute expressly states that an individual can be prosecuted for willfully avoiding support payments to a child who resides out of state. An individual can also be held liable if the amount due is more than $5,000, or there is more than a year past due.  

A greater punishment can be imposed for those who fall further behind. When payments are more than two years due, or in excess of $10,000 an individual can be charged with a federal felony.

Additionally, this statute makes it illegal to flee a jurisdiction to avoid child support. This section comes into play when support is at least one year overdue, or the amount due is more than $5,000.  

How Does Federal Law Apply to State Issued Child Support?

The federal government has jurisdiction over interstate commerce. The payment of money in the form of child support (from one state to another) is a form of interstate commerce.  Thus, the law derives its constitutional authority from the power of the commerce clause. Initially, this law was challenged as an over-extension of congressional authority. However, the majority of federal circuit courts have ruled that this law is valid under the broad powers allocated to Congress under the Constitution  

What Are The Penalties For Violations?

The penalties for violations of this law depend on the time and amount owed. Individuals owing more than $5,000 or a year of support can be found guilty of a misdemeanor. This means they may be remanded to jail for a maximum of six months. They may also have to pay court ordered fines and restitution.  

If you need help with a federal child support case contact the family law attorney Rex B Bushman. An experienced lawyer will review your case, and help you find a resolution to the matter.