Sub Urban Mom

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program is a Federal/state/local partnership to collect child support: We want to send the strongest possible message that parents cannot walk away from their children. Our goals are to ensure that children have the financial support of both their parents, to foster responsible behavior towards children, to emphasize that children need to have both parents involved in their lives, and to reduce welfare costs 

Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Support Enforcement

Thirty-four states make the non-payment of child support a felony under some or all circumstances. In addition, non-payment is a felony under federal law under some circumstances.


All states have criminal laws setting penalties for failure to support a child or a family. In the following 12 states, failure to pay support is a felony: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, and Utah.

The maximum prison term for non-support ranges from 18 months in Arizona to 14 years in Idaho. In addition, 22 states (Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) make non-payment a felony under certain circumstances.

Felony penalties most commonly apply in these states for a second or subsequent conviction or for fleeing a state to evade responsibility for paying child support. In the remaining states (including Connecticut) the crime of non-payment of child support is a misdemeanor or unclassified crime. The enclosed chart supplied by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) describes the penalties in each state and gives the statutory citation. 

According to a June 1999 publication by the NCSL, nearly half of the state supreme courts have heard cases regarding criminal penalties for failure to pay child support. The document, Courts Uphold Criminal Penalties for the Failure to Pay Child Support, is available in the Legislative Library. It is also available on-line at


Under certain circumstances, wilful failure to pay support is a felony under federal law. The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 (18 U. S. C. Sec. 228) subjects parents to up to two years in prison, plus a fine, and mandatory restitution if they:

1. owe at least $ 10,000;

2. are at least two years behind in their payments and have been cited two or more times for failure to obey their child support orders; or

3. travel across state lines or abroad to evade child support responsibilities if the obligation remains unpaid for longer than one year or is greater than $ 5,000.

The penalty also applies to a second offense of wilfully failing to pay past due support for a child living in another state in an amount exceeding $ 5,000 or for more than one year.

To demonstrate that the non-payment is wilful, a U. S. attorney must only prove that the obligor knew of the obligation and either had the means to pay the obligation when due or acted to create an insufficiency of funds to pay the obligation. 


Handbook On Child Support Enforcement

Follow Up resources to  CO-PARENTING PODCAST SERIES #3:Pay up before you get locked up

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