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Punishment for Deadbeat Parents

Deadbeat Parents May Face Federal Prosecution

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What Does it Mean to be a “Deadbeat Parent?”

There’s a common misconception out there that any parent who’s fallen behind on child support payments must be a “deadbeat parent.” But when you look at legislation regarding the issue of deadbeat parents, it becomes apparent that this is not the case.

Each state has it's own laws regarding child support enforcement. However, there is a federal law known as the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA) of 1998, which comes into play when a parent owes child support to child who resides in another state. According to the DPPA, a true “deadbeat” is an individual who:

  1. Has been ordered by the courts to pay child support
  2. Is aware that they have been ordered by the courts to pay child support
  3. Has willfully chosen not to pay child support for at least 12 months, or is at least $5,000 behind in child support payments.

"Willfully” is the key word. Many parents who’ve fallen behind on child support payments aren’t choosing not to pay; they’re unable to pay.

Can Deadbeat Parents Be Punished?

Yes. When a parent falls significantly behind on child support payments, the state may:

  1. Garnish the obligor’s paychecks
  2. Deny the obligor a passport
  3. Intercept the obligor’s unemployment benefits
  4. Intercept his or her federal and/or state income tax refunds
  5. Enforce jail time
In addition, in accordance with the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA), parents who owe child support to a child residing in another state and have not paid that child support in 12 months, or are more than $5,000 in arrears, can be charged with a misdemeanor. Parents who we child support to a child residing in another sate and have not paid that child support in 24 months, or are more than $10,000 in arrears, can be charged with a felony.

What About Parents Who Run From Child Support?

Parents who move from state to state in order to avoid paying child support, or who use an alias in an attempt to evade the authorities, may the subject to federal prosecution under the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act.

What Causes a Parent to Not Pay Child Support in the First Place?

Many parents who are behind on child support payments are unable to pay child support because they’ve fallen on hard times. In cases where an obligor’s circumstances have changed significantly, the courts may consider reevaluating the obligor’s financial situation and decreasing the amount of child support owed. Parents in this situation should request a modification through the court that issued the child support order.

References:

"Child Support Enforcement." U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Jan. 2011. http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/child_support.htm.

Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998. 18 USC. Sec. 228. 1998. PDF file.

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