Child support is money paid to the custodial parent for the benefit of a child when the parents have divorced, separated or are no longer residing together. The monetary support can be used by the custodial parent to provide for the child’s health and well-being, shelter, education, and other necessities.

How is Child Support Determined?

Though child support is paid by the non-custodial parent, the amount of the support is based on a formula that considers the best interest of the child. This best interest formula will vary from state-to-state and the court will order child support based on the specific facts of each case.

The court will use the information in the financial statements provided by each parent to calculate the amount of child support. In the financial statement, each parent will give information about their monthly income, expenses, and liabilities.

The court also may consider a parent’s ability to earn a certain wage versus what the parent actually earns and hold the parent responsible for the higher amount. Regardless what factors the court applies in determining a non-custodial parent’s ability to pay, it is imperative that each parent provide an honest accounting of their finances to the court.

What is Child Support Application Fraud?

When a parent petitions the court for child support, the court will consider the financial statements provided by the parents. The court will rely on those statements in making its determination about what is in the best interest of the child and about each parent’s ability to provide financially for the child.

Though each state may vary, the court typically will require some certification from the parents asserting the accuracy of the information provided.

Although most scenarios involve a non-custodial parent’s efforts to deceive the court so as to avoid paying child support, child support application fraud can be committed by either parent. Sometimes one or both parents will provide incomplete or inaccurate information to influence the court’s decision about whether child support should be ordered and in what amount.

This attempt to influence the court may occur when the non-custodial parent hides additional income sources (i.e. receiving wages from a job “under the table” or income from investments) or when the custodial parent overstates the child’s expenses or lists expenses that do not meet the child’s need. For example, the custodial parent may inflate the child’s expenses to include personal leisure items.

What are the Consequences for Child Support Fraud?

Non-payment of child support is burdensome for custodial parents and government agencies. Child support enforcement agencies will have to utilize their resources to enforce child support orders and draw from public funds to provide for the child.

As a result, government child support recovery efforts are quite forceful and can result in significant consequences, including wage garnishment and seizure of personal property.

As well, if the court finds there is evidence that the child support payments are not being used for the benefit of the child, it may order an investigation into the expenditures, which may interrupt support payments and influence the court’s decision about custodial arrangements and visitation schedules.

Further, the court may order a retroactive adjustment if the non-custodial parent conceals details about their financial situation to avoid paying their fair support or otherwise disrupted the timely determination of child support.

Most importantly, child support fraud can result in state and federal criminal charges. For example, since the information provided to the court is made under oath, this may support a charge for contempt or perjury.

As well, the Office of the Inspector General, upon referral from state or local agencies, may investigate child support cases where the non-custodial parent knowingly fails to pay child support.

If convicted, the non-custodial parent can face imprisonment and fines and can be made to pay child support going back to when they first concealed the relevant information about their financial circumstances in order to defraud the system.

How Do I Report Child Support Fraud?

If you are dealing with a non-custodial parent engaging in child support fraud, contact your local child support enforcement agency. It is also important that you petition the court to modify any existing child support order to accurately reflect information about the non-custodial parent’s financial situation.

Should I Consult with an Attorney If I Have an Issue with Child Support Fraud?

You should consider working with a child support lawyer if you suspect that a non-custodial parent is misrepresenting their financial circumstances to the court in order to avoid paying their fair child support. The attorney will help you to petition the court to modify a child support order or help you with enforcement efforts to recover child support.

If you are being investigated for child support fraud or are the subject of enforcement efforts, you should consult with an attorney. Your actions may result in criminal charges or consequences.