Child Support Enforcement Outside The United States

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 What is Child Support?

Child support is a predetermined sum of money paid, typically monthly, to the spouse who has primary custody of the child or children. The amount of child support is set by the custody agreement and is required by law.

Child support is intended to be used only for the benefit of the child or children. It usually covers the basic necessities, including:

  • Food, housing, and clothing;
  • Health insurance and medical care; and
  • Educational expenses.

Child support is not intended to be used for the benefit of either of the parents. Instead, payments are intended to benefit the child or children.

In addition, child support is intended to be used for basic necessities, not for luxury items which are not necessary for the upbringing of the child or children. Child support calculations may be complex because numerous factors related to the child are considered.

Any child support determinations are made using the child’s best interest standard, which involves standards that may vary from state to state.

Whose Obligation is it to Pay Child Support?

The payment of child support may be required of any parent, even a parent in a same-sex relationship, regardless of whether the individuals are married. If a dispute arises regarding the identity of the child’s father, a paternity test may be required or ordered.

A step-parent will not be legally required to pay child support unless that step-parent has legally adopted the child or children. In many situations, one parent will have custody of the child for the majority of the time.

The parent who has the child most of the time is referred to as the custodial parent. The other parent is referred to as the non-custodial parent and is the parent who will be required to pay child support.

This is due to the fact that the custodial parent will usually have more responsibilities related to raising the child than the non-custodial parent and, therefore, will also incur more expenses associated with raising the child. However, every case is different, and a court will assign child support responsibilities in the way which best benefits the child and their needs.

Can I Enforce My Child Support Agreement Outside the United States?

Yes, it is possible to enforce a child support agreement outside of the United States, depending on which country the other parent resides in. First, an individual is required to have a valid child support order which was issued by a United States court.

In every case, an individual should attempt to use all of the traditional methods for child support enforcement before taking more drastic measures.

In What Countries May I Enforce a Child Support Order?

There are numerous countries that have signed agreements with the United States government stating that they will cooperate with enforcing a child support order which was issued in the United States when the parent who owes support lives in the country, including:

  • Albania;
  • Australia;
  • Austria;
  • Belarus;
  • Belgium;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Brazil;
  • Bulgaria;
  • Canada;
  • Croatia;
  • Cyprus;
  • Ireland;
  • Czech Republic;
  • El Salvador;
  • Estonia;
  • Finland;
  • France;
  • Germany;
  • Greece;
  • Honduras;
  • Hungary;
  • Ireland;
  • Israel;
  • Italy;
  • Latvia;
  • Lithuania;
  • Luxembourg;
  • Malta;
  • Montenegro;
  • Netherlands;
  • Nicaragua;
  • Norway;
  • Poland;
  • Portugal;
  • Romania;
  • Slovak Republic;
  • Slovenia;
  • Spain;
  • Sweden;
  • Switzerland;
  • Turkey;
  • Ukraine; and
  • The United Kingdom.

If the other parent of the child resides in one of the countries listed, the first step will be to contact and work with the non-paying parent’s state child support agency. These agencies typically have the resources to contract the correct offices abroad to enforce the child support agreement.

What if the Child’s Other Parent Lives in a Country That is Not on That List?

Even if the paying parent resides in a country which is not listed above, meaning that there is no federal agreement with that country, certain states have agreements with nearby countries, such as Mexico. It is important to consult with an attorney to determine if the state has established an agreement with the country.

If no state or federal agreement exists, it may still be possible to collect child support, but it will be more difficult. In these types of cases, an individual will have to have the foreign country issue a child support order.

This may be difficult because not all countries have child support laws. It may be possible that an individual will not be able to enforce a child support order if the other parent resides in a country that does not have child support laws.

What if I Suspect My Child’s Other Parent Left the United States, but I am Not Sure Exactly Where They Are?

In some cases, a parent moves to a different country to avoid a child support order. If the paying parent has left the United States, an individual can check with U.S. embassies in countries where the paying parent may have moved.

Those embassies will be able to inform the non-paying parent if the paying parent has registered with a United States embassy or consulate abroad. It is important to note, however, that detailed or confidential information is protected by privacy acts and will likely not be revealed.

A foreign embassy will likely not have the personnel to assist an individual in finding the missing parent. They may, however, be able to refer them to a local investigator. If the non-paying parent is a United States government employee, the United States has a wide variety of resources to help individuals enforce their child support agreements and locate the paying parent.

What if I Live Abroad and Need to Seek Child Support from the Other Parent Living in the United States?

If an individual’s child is a United States citizen and they are living abroad, they will need to contact the child support agency in the state where the other parent resides in order to begin the process for obtaining child support. It is important to note that child support laws vary by state, so an individual must contact the correct state office.

If I Owe Child Support, Will I be Able to Leave The Country?

Because some parents who are required to pay child support will leave the country intentionally for the purpose of avoiding making child support payments, the United States restricts passports for individuals who owe past-due child support.

Any parent who owes over $2,500 in child support obligations will have their passport application denied. In addition, any existing passports may be revoked. There are similar passport restrictions in other countries.

If an individual’s passport is revoked or their passport application is denied as a result of their past-due child support, the only way to resolve the issue is to pay the full amount of child support which is due.

Do I Need a Family Attorney for Help with Child Support Issues?

It is essential to have the assistance of a child support attorney for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have related to child support and child support enforcement in another country. Enforcing child support orders may be a complex process.

Your lawyer will advise you of your state laws, guide you through the process of enforcing a child support agreement, and interact with government and foreign agencies. It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible if your child’s other parent resides in another country.


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