Child Support Recovery in a State or Federal Court

Help for Parents Who Are Owed Back Child Support Payments

Lawyers pleading case to judge in court

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Parents who are owed child support may seek to recover unpaid child support payments. There are several reasons why a parent would seek to recover child support payments. Here is some information about recovering child support payments in a state or federal court:

Child Support Recovery in State Court

Parents seeking to recover child support payments in state court should prepare the following prior to a court appearance:

  • Evidence that the custodial parent attempted to collect child support
  • Evidence that the child support obligor has not paid child support for an extended period of time
  • If the parents were not married and the child support obligor is the child's father, the child's mother should present evidence that the father was aware of the paternity of the child.

Child Support Recovery Act

The federal government established a law in 1992 called the Child Support Recovery Act. The purpose of the law is to:

  • Deter nonpayment of state-ordered child support obligations and
  • Seek to prosecute those that owe back child support

Child Support Recovery in Federal Court

Parents may only be able to recover child support in federal court in certain limited circumstances. A federal court will consider the following:

  • Whether any remedy is available to the parent in state court
  • Whether the child support obligor has established a habit of moving to different states to avoid a child support obligation
  • Whether the child support obligor attempted to hide his/her whereabouts to avoid a child support obligation

Parents who are seeking to recover child support payments in federal court should provide evidence of the following prior to a court appearance:

  • The parent who was obligated to pay child support willfully did not pay
  • The debt has been unpaid for at least a year or the parent owes at least $5,000
  • The child lives in a different state than the parent who is obligated to pay child support

To request back child support payments, you may want to refer to your specific state's child support enforcement agency.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. S.1002 - Child Support Recovery Act of 1992.

  2. United States Department of Justice. Prosecutive Guidelines and Procedures for the Child Support and Recovery Act of 1992.

By Debrina Washington
Debrina Washington is a New York-based family law attorney and writer, who runs her own virtual practice to assist single parents with legal issues.