Can Child Support Suspend Passports?

By Mary Jane Freeman

Following a divorce or failed relationship that produced a child, support is often ordered by the court. The noncustodial parent is required to contribute to the financial support for the child by making payments to the parent with custody. The United States Child Support Enforcement Program is a partnership between the federal, state, local and tribal governments that was created to make it easier for the difference government bodies to enforce child support payments. CSE uses several methods to force delinquent parents to make payments, including revoking your passport.

Following a divorce or failed relationship that produced a child, support is often ordered by the court. The noncustodial parent is required to contribute to the financial support for the child by making payments to the parent with custody. The United States Child Support Enforcement Program is a partnership between the federal, state, local and tribal governments that was created to make it easier for the difference government bodies to enforce child support payments. CSE uses several methods to force delinquent parents to make payments, including revoking your passport.

Support Enforcement

Once a child support award is established, often by divorce decree or other court action, the custodial parent may apply to the Child Support Enforcement Program and receive help with its collection. Operated at the state level, CSE monitors and enforces child support orders. When a noncustodial parent's payments become past due, CSE employs several routine collection methods, including the seizure of state and federal income tax refunds, seizure of bank accounts and suspension of drivers, professional and occupational licenses. However, if the arrearage becomes greater than $2,500, CSE will pursue harsher penalties such as revocation of the delinquent parent's passport.

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Suspension of Passport

Once a noncustodial parent owes more than $2,500 in past due child support, the state CSE refers his case to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). OCSE then submits the case to the U.S. Department of State where he is enrolled in the Passport Denial Program. When you're enrolled in this program, the State Department will restrict or revoke your current passport and instruct Passport Services to deny any new or renewal applications you may submit. Both CSE and Passport Services will notify you once your case has been referred to the Passport Denial Program.

How to Reinstate Passport

Once your passport privileges have been taken away for non-payment of child support, the only thing left to do is pay up. You must either pay the past due balance in full or enter into an approved payment arrangement. Paying just enough to bring your balance below $2,500 will not suffice. When your obligation is satisfied, CSE will notify the Passport Denial Program and have your name removed from their child support arrearage list. You will then be permitted to travel on your current passport or apply for a new one. If you submitted a new or renewal application within 90 days of being enrolled in the Passport Denial Program, Passport Services will resume processing your application. However, if your privileges are restored after the 90-day window, you will need to submit a new application.

Additional Considerations

Although CSE is responsible for notifying the Passport Denial Program when your child support arrears have been cleared, this does not always happen. Therefore, you must contact them directly if you discover your passport remains restricted or subsequent new or renewal applications are denied. Passport Services is unable to make these changes for you.

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Passport Held Due to Nonpayment of Child Support

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Laws on Child Support Arrears in Nevada

Nevada’s laws on child support payments, including arrearages, are covered in Chapters 125B and 130 of Nevada Revised Statutes. While state agencies are available to help, you may wish to consult with an attorney if you have questions about how these laws apply to your specific situation.

Child Support Arrearage Laws for Oregon

In 2009, Oregon began taking a notably tough stance against parents who willfully refuse to pay child support; the Department of Justice arrested 21 non-custodial parents and subsequently collected more than $530,000 for their families. If you owe child support arrearages, although incarceration is usually Oregon's last resort to convince you to pay up, it can happen. Judgments for child support in this state are enforceable for 35 years after the date of your divorce decree, if your decree includes provisions for child support. Otherwise, the time begins running from the date of your support order.

Child Support Laws on Back Payments in Michigan

Michigan makes it hard for non-custodial parents to fall behind in their child support obligations because most child support orders include mandatory income withholding provisions. Under this system, your employer deducts your support payments from your paychecks and sends the money to the state's child support collection unit. The unit then sends the money to your child’s other parent. However, some parents have been divorced for some time so their decrees predate the income withholding requirements. Others are self-employed, so income withholding may not work. If you fall too far behind in your payments, Michigan’s Friend of the Court (FOC) will attempt to collect from you.

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