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About the Child Support Enforcement Program

Parents who fail to pay court-ordered support for the care of their children put an unnecessary strain on the custodial parent and the children, as well as on agencies that are tasked with enforcing these matters. Although most child support cases fall under State and local jurisdiction, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) plays an important role in investigating particular cases regarding parents who fail to pay court-ordered child support.

Upon referral from state or local agencies, OIG may be asked by these agencies to investigate child support cases that may involve the following situations:

  • the noncustodial parent willfully fails to pay child support for more than 1 year, and the State where the child lives is different from the State where the noncustodial parent lives;
  • the amount the noncustodial parent owes is more than $5,000, and the State where the child lives is different from the State where the noncustodial parent lives; or
  • the noncustodial parent travels to another State or country to avoid paying child support.

Convicted noncustodial parents may face imprisonment and fines, as well as restitution for the owed child support. Federal, State, and local entities work together to identify, investigate, and prosecute egregious cases of noncustodial parents who knowingly fail to pay support obligations and whose cases meet the criteria for Federal prosecution under the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act. These entities include the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Office of Child Support Enforcement(OCSE), State child support enforcement offices, the Department of Justice, and OIG.

Please note that even if a case appears to meet the criteria for Federal prosecution, there are many elements that go into the decision to investigate and prosecute such cases at the Federal level. The ultimate decision on whether to prosecute a child support case at the Federal level lies with the Department of Justice. (For more information, please see the U.S. Department of Justice's Citizen's Guide to Federal Law on Child Support Enforcement).

If you have a question or problem related to a child support enforcement case, please contact your State's child support enforcement office. These offices handle the majority of child support cases and issues, including the day-to-day operations of child support collections.