Federal Laws on Child Support Fraud
- The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act incriminates child support offenders.gavel image by Cora Reed from Fotolia.com
Federal child support enforcement first became possible in 1992 with the passage of the Child Support Recovery Act. While this law was designed to deter nonpayment of state ordered support obligations through vigorous prosecution of the most serious offenders, the law only allowed for misdemeanor penalties to be imposed, which did not have the desired effect. Congress remedied this problem with the passage of The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998, which remains in effect today. This law created two new categories of federal felonies for the most serious offenders.
Category 1: Failure to Pay a Support Obligation to a Child Residing in Another State
- The law makes it a felony to willfully fail to pay a support obligation with respect to a child who resides in another state, which either has remained unpaid for a period of longer than two years or exceeds $10,000. The law also makes it a felony to willfully fail to pay a support obligation with respect to a child who resides in another state, which either has remained unpaid for a period of longer than one year or exceeds $5,000 if it is the violator's second offense. A first offense falling in this category is classified as a misdemeanor.
Category 2: Traveling with the Intent to Avoid a Support Obligation
- The law also makes it a felony to travel across state lines or abroad with the intent to evade a support obligation that has remained unpaid for longer than one year or exceeds $5,000.
- The law punishes felony child support fraud offenses by up to two years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. The law punishes a misdemeanor child fraud offense by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000. For both felony and misdemeanor offenses, the court is required to order restitution to the victim in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation as it exists at the time of sentencing.
- The United States Department of Justice has indicated that prosecutors should take into account the following considerations in determining whether to prosecute individuals who have committed child support fraud: 1) whether available state civil and criminal remedies have been pursued; 2) whether the violator has exhibited a pattern of moving from state to state to avoid payment; 3) whether the violator has attempted to conceal his whereabouts or identity, including through the use of an alias or false Social Security number; and 4) whether the violator has failed to comply with a support order despite previous contempt orders in state court.