Child Support Law
Enforcing a Child Support Order Out of State
In this article
If a non-custodial parent moves out of state, or already lives out of state, rest assured you can still get the child support your children need. Having one parent live in a different state can make the process trickier, but there are ways to find your ex and make sure they pay child support.
Family court orders are enforceable across state borders, so it does not matter where a parent lives. Child support services can help you, and family court judges can hold your ex in contempt of court or enforce any existing child support order.
If there is not already a court order in place, then you need to file with the state you live in now before seeking child support from someone out of state.
No matter where the custodial parent lives, they have many options for going about this process. This can be an easy process or a difficult one, depending on whether your ex is cooperating or trying to hide.
Your first steps may include:
- Finding out the other parent’s current address from relatives or friends
- Hiring a private investigator
- Using locator resources from your local child support office
These would all be viable options if your ex did not tell you where they were moving. Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), sometimes called “Interstate Action,”states must help you find your ex for missing child support.
This act also prevents multiple states from ordering child support and helps you find the other parent if they move away.
You can choose to work with your local Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) or directly with your state. Generally, you should pick one of these options and not both, so there are not duplicate cases in progress. In some states, you may need to start the process with your CSEA, and they will refer it to the state.
It is essential to know that the state you live in is the “initiating state,” and they will contact the “responding state” as the case progresses. You do not need to contact the state your ex moved to — only the state or CSEA office in the state you live in.
Every state has a parent locator services. The local child support offices have access to resources such as:
- Federal new hire data
- State new hire data
- Driver’s license change of address information
- Unemployment insurance information
- Worker’s compensation filing
- Criminal and civil court records
- Credit bureau data
- Bureau of Motor Vehicles or DMV information
- Public assistance applications (such as applying for food stamps)
Essentially, if your ex tries to work, get a place to live, use a credit card, or apply for government assistance, agencies can find them.
Once the other parent’s address is found, the courts have a way to contact them, and the enforcement of child support can begin.
An easy way to enforce child support orders when the other parent is out of state is to garnish wages. You can have the courts send a garnishment order directly to the other parent’s employer, and the child support will come straight out of their paycheck.
Under federal law, all employers must honor child support garnishment orders from other states. Your ex’s employer can’t refuse to garnish an employee’s wages for child support just because the garnishment order comes from another state.
Every state has passed some version of the UIFSA. This law is designed specifically to enforce child support orders from one state against a parent who lives in another state.
Filing a claim under UIFSA usually involves hiring an attorney or working with your local child support office. It enables you to contact relevant people in the other parent’s state to enforce your child support order, such as:
- The state’s local courts
- Child support agencies
- The other parent’s attorney
The courts and authorities in the other state must enforce your child support order — just as if it was created in that state.
This can take time, so it is helpful to start the process right away. It can take months or over a year to get child support cases to court when legal action is needed.
Many states also have criminal laws that address unpaid child support orders.
If a parent refuses to pay child support as ordered, you can take action. However, if they cannot pay because of financial issues, there are other paths to take that do not involve criminal charges.
You or an attorney can contact your local prosecutor’s or district attorney’s office. They can file criminal “nonsupport” charges against the other parent, even if they live in another state.
In some cases, your state can “extradite” or bring the other parent back to your state, but only if they are charged with a child support crime.
The felony nonsupport charges vary state by state, and can result in:
- Jail or prison time
- Home detention or house arrest
The process will involve steps to find the parent and use strategies to get your children’s support money. Rest assured that crossing state lines will not stop your ex from paying the child support your family needs.