Federal involvement in U.S. child support cases

Navigating state, local and federal law is often a complicated endeavor, and this is no less true when it comes to child support. Since California is a state where many residents have come from other states or even other countries, it may be helpful to know when federal authorities might get involved in a child support case.

According to Title 18, Section 228 of the United States Code, a parent who "willfully fails" to pay child support under certain circumstances commits an illegal act. Still, the United States Department of Justice emphasizes that most child support disputes will be resolved at the state or local level. Moreover, even child support matters that do involve federal law will begin at the local or state level.

What types of situations might involve federal authorities? A person could eventually find themselves the target of federal prosecution if they willfully fail to pay court-ordered child support for a child who resides in a different state. The same could be true if the parent's payment is past due for over a year or if the parent owes more than $5,000. A violation in these circumstances is a misdemeanor crime and the penalties could include up to half a year in prison.

At the felony level, an offense could include payments being overdue for over two years or owing more than $10,000. Parents who are convicted in these situations could have to pay fines as well as spend up to two years behind bars.

No parent wants their child support dispute to involve being accused of a criminal offense. While the financial needs of raising a child can be difficult to meet at times, it's important to maintain one's child support obligations. Parents who want to know more about enforcing a support order, initiating support or modifying support can discuss their situations with an Orange County family lawyer.