How Does Child Support Work If Parent is Overseas?

When a couple who has had a child together go their separate ways, it is entirely possible that one of them ends up overseas. This is especially relevant in today’s economic climate, in which jobs in one’s field may be scarce in the local area. This situation, however, has led to some confusion regarding child support procedures and obligations. Geographical changes often make for some very erroneous interpretations regarding which jurisdiction applies, and the international aspect of the parent’s residency and employment adds an extra layer of complication.

Theoretical and actual implications

In theory, the payment of child support will continue to be in place, and the amount of the payment may change only if the income has been drastically changed and a modification to the child support order is made. Even if the non-custodial parent is working abroad and can no longer make regular visits to his child—this is one of the more popular reasons why some parents intentionally refuse to pay child support—his ability to pay and the needs of the child mean that the child support order stands.

The truth of the matter is that some non-custodial parents see overseas employment as a convenient way of getting out of paying child support altogether. It is not simply a matter of “out of sight, out of mind”; some people actually believe that the reach of child support agencies does not extend to foreign jurisdictions.

Collecting and enforcing the child support order

Even if the non-custodial parent is abroad for the foreseeable future, the custodial parent can still contact child support online services for assistance regarding finding the overseas parent and collecting the child support payment. A parent who lives and works abroad and who owes money for child support can still be made to pay after the custodial parent contacts the child support agency in her state. The US Congress has forged treaties regarding the enforcement of child support orders with a number of foreign countries. As of 2008, the countries, according to the website of the Administration of Children and Families of the US Department of Health and Human Resources, include:

• Australia
• Canada
• Czech Republic
• El Salvador
• Finland
• Hungary
• Ireland
• Israel
• Netherlands
• Norway
• Poland
• Portugal
• Slovak Republic
• Switzerland
• The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

In addition to the US federal government, the state that generated the child support order may also have its own agreement with the government of the country in which the non-custodial parent is currently employed.

Examples of collection methods

There are several possible ways in which the non-custodial parent can be forced to pay the child support amount. This may be true even for countries without any reciprocal treaties with American officialdom. If the parent working overseas possesses assets in the US, the Child Support Enforcement agency can pursue enforcement on the custodial parent’s behalf.

The wages of the non-custodial parent may also be garnished. In other words, the amount owed in child support can be taken from the wage automatically. This is certainly possible if the non-custodial parent is working for the US military, for the US government, or even for a private American company.