While it may be widely understood that child custody matters generally fall under state law, it is worth being mindful of the limited federal laws related to the prosecution of parents who willfully fail to pay legal child support obligations. Individuals may be subject to federal prosecution for not abiding to the order passed by the court per the provisions of Section 228 of Title 18 of the United States Code.
The key to the law is that the child must be in a different state. The federal law is meant to close the loophole that existed in the state law when the child and custodial parent lived in a different state from the parent required to pay support. The law falls under the federal criminal statutes.
Under this federal law, if the child support payment has not been made for a period of one year or if it exceeds $5,000, the case is considered to be a violation of law and the offender may be fined and served a jail sentence of six months. If the payment is due for over two years and the amount has exceeded $10,000, the offender is convicted of criminal felony and may be subjected to a prison sentence of two years and a fine. This statute also prevents any convict in such cases from crossing over to any other state or leaving the country with the intention of not paying for the child support.
Individuals who intend to do so may get a prison term of two years. The issues regarding child support are handled by the state authorities. The federal government usually does not intervene. But in some cases, the federal jurisdiction is implicated. For example, the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 replaced the earlier Child Support Recovery Act. This new law had sufficient provisions to deter serious offenders.
All cases related to child support should be first addressed to the state and local authorities and then, if needed, it can move to the federal courts. For those facing issues with a delinquent parent and needed help with child support enforcement, understanding the various mechanisms available under the law is a great first step towards a positive resolution.