Child support collection matters are usually handled in local or state courts under the laws of each of the individual states.  However, there are limited circumstances under which a parent owing money for the support of a child in New York could be confronted by a criminal indictment in federal court if he or she does not live in the same state as the child.

When Congress enacted Section 228 of Title 18 of the United States Code, it made it a criminal offense to willfully fail to pay child support. The statute authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute the nonpaying parent in any federal district court having jurisdiction over the residence of the child or where the parent resided when the child support obligation arrearage was incurred.

Prosecution under the federal statute is a misdemeanor and is authorized in any of the following circumstances:

  • Willful failure to pay child support for longer than one year, or the unpaid support is in excess of $5,0000; or
  • Willful failure to pay child support for more than two years, or the unpaid support exceeds $10,000; or
  • The person owing support for more than a year or owing more than $5,000 attempts to evade payment by crossing state lines or travels to another country

Under the federal statute, a state child support order creates a rebuttable presumption that the parent who failed to pay had the ability to do so but refused. Prosecutors may use this presumption to shift the burden over to the parent to produce evidence tending to prove that the failure to pay was not willful.

Punishment in the event of a conviction may include imprisonment for six months to two years, fines or both imprisonment and fines. The law also directs judges to order the convicted individual to pay restitution equal to the amount of unpaid child support.

The federal statute offers parents another weapon when child support orders are ignored.

If you have a child support order and your spouse or ex-spouse is not paying, then you should consult with an attorney. Lawyers that deal with child support orders may be well-equipped to help you. Trying to get child support payments from a parent who has defaulted can be a difficult and stressful process if you try on your own. Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx lawyer with over 31 years of experience in family court. Mr. Lutzky offers free in person consultations on matters related to child support, divorce and family court. Call 718-514-6619 to set up a free consultation and visit to learn more about Mr. Lutzky.