Child Support: An Issue of Concern for Foreign Parents

Published: 08th December 2006
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Child support will forever be an issue as long as parents deny the desire to care for their offspring. The issue was brought to mind by a parent (foreign born) who wrote me a rather lengthy letter outlining the need to obtain child support from an American father. Now retired, and reluctant to advocate for parents, this article was written to provide information that informs parents who are not United States citizens about what can be done to ascertain child support from American parents who simply decide to skip out on their child support obligation.

Let there be no misunderstanding about the union of an American parent and a foreign born national when it comes to children born of that union; the American parent is obligated by law to pay child support for the child, whether they live in the United States or not.

Recent law gives the United States government authority to make agreements with other countries for child support enforcement. The U.S. has reciprocity with several countries - which means that state child support agencies have reciprocity and can work with those countries to collect child support. There are many individual states already in agreement with a particular country or group of countries to collect child support. Learning about whether your state has an agreement with a foreign country is as simple as visiting or contacting your state child support agency.

Parents, child support workers, and other friends of child support advocacy can learn about what countries have reciprocity with the U.S. by visiting

If you know the state where the non-custodial parent lives does not have a reciprocal agreement with the country where you live, you can write to the state and ask for an application, and the state can mail you the forms that you will need to request child support enforcement with the state where the non-custodial parent lives and the country where you reside.

You may want to start with the state where you think the (American) parent is living or was born. Information that is particularly important for finding someone and establishing and enforcing a child support order includes the parent's full names and social security number. If you do not know the social security number, the state Child Support Enforcement agency may be able to find it if you provide the following: the parent's date and place of birth, mother's maiden name and father's name, previous addresses, professional, area of employment, places of employment and professional licenses.

Parents may want to use the child support record book,
A Matter of Record: Keeping Track of Your Child Support
to maintain information associated with their child support case. It is imperative to keep up with social security numbers, last know addresses, even a physical description of the parent. This is a tedious process but one made easier when all the information is maintained in one location.

A thorough understanding of collecting child support when either parent is foreign born or living in another country is essential. When a parent lives abroad there are measures that can be taken to collect child support.

Custodial parents can contact their State Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Office to learn if there is an agreement with the country in which the non-custodial parent lives. If there is an agreement, work with the CSE Office to enforce the obligation. Just because a non-custodial parent lives in a different country does not mean child support cannot be obtained.

If the custodial parent has a support order, and the non-custodial parent has assets in this country such as bank accounts or property, or is employed by a business with an office in the United States, it may be possible for a CSE office to pursue child support enforcement on the custodial parent’s behalf.
If the non-custodial parent is in a country that has no agreement in the custodial parent’s home state and has no assets in this country, the following steps may help to secure support for your child:

-Contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in the Department of State, Room 4817, Washington, D.C. 20510. Call 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas: 202 501-4444); this office will have information about the legal systems of various nations and can provide a listing of attorneys in foreign counties who might be hired to assist with child support enforcement matters.

-Have your child support order authenticated by the consul of the foreign country in the United States and translated into the official language of the foreign country.

-Contact the foreign attorney and ask him/her to try to enforce the child support order through the foreign court.

If the person travels on a U.S. Passport, the States certify child support cases with arrearages of $2500 or more to the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). OCSE transmits the information to the Department of State which flags the case and will deny, or refuse to renew, a passport. Also, if someone whose case has been flagged asks for any change in the passport, (change of address, a new visa, addition of a child, etc.) the passport can be seized.

It is the custodial parent’s responsibility to be proactive in contacting the state child support agency and learn what needs to be done to collect child support for the dependent child/children. Documenting contacts, conversations, phone numbers, fax numbers and all the information associated with your child support case is imperative if you are to put forth a “best effort.” Remember the squeaky wheel gets oiled.

D. D. Davis is a certified Parent Educator with the North Carolina Parent Network and has been a writer for over 25 years. Contact email: Ms. Davis is a staunch supporter of parent education and adult education programs and she encourages parent involvement and support groups. Parenting….the most difficult job any adult will ever do in life. Author of, A Matter of Record: Keeping Track of Your Child Support.

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