International Child Support: How Does It Work?

By Betty Wang, JD on October 02, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Child support is not a simple matter, and international child support can get even more complicated. If you had a child with a partner who is living outside of the United States, can you enforce a U.S. child support order against him or her?

International child support is a relatively recent and evolving area of law, so enforcement may be a bit tricky. However, it is possible in many cases.

Here is a general breakdown of how international child support works, and what your options may entail if you need to enforce a child support order outside the United States:

Reciprocal Agreements With Other Countries

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program was enacted in 1975 as a federal-state child support program, under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. However, there was no mandate in the program that covered international arrangements for child support until 1996.

Now, under 42. U.S.C. 659(A), foreign countries can be declared "reciprocating countries" if they've established their own procedures for child support, among some other requirements.

Essentially, what this means is that the United States has many reciprocal agreements with other countries for enforcement of each respective country's child support orders. How does this work, though? And do all countries have reciprocal agreements?

A Parent's Option(s)

For a domestic parent who wants to make a claim for international child support, the claim typically starts with the state's child support agency.

Once this claim is filed, the country with a reciprocal agreement, where the other parent is located, will then have a designated agency carry out the enforcement of child support, following the local child support enforcement laws in that country.

However, the CSE program currently only has reciprocal agreements regarding child support enforcement with 15 countries, according to the Congressional Research Service for Congress.

So if the parent you are seeking international child support from lives in a country with no reciprocal agreement, your next step may be to obtain a child support order from him or her -- by doing so in that foreign country. You may be able to hire an experienced child support attorney or perhaps even an international law attorney who can aid you in this process, but unfortunately not all countries have child support laws.

One more interesting fact: Anyone who owes $2,500 or more in child support isn't eligible for a U.S. passport, according to the State Department. So if the parent owing child support applies for a U.S. passport in an attempt to leave the country, that parent will have to pay off his or her outstanding child support before he or she can get one.

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