Can I Travel to Europe if I Owe Child Support?

By Beverly Bird

Adults are usually free to travel wherever they like – unless they want to leave the country and they happen to be behind in their child support obligations. You need a passport to travel abroad, and if your child support arrears reach a certain point, the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement will step in to make sure Passport Services denies your application. Your only option is pay what you owe, and to do so well in advance of your trip because the process of lifting the denial can take some time.

Adults are usually free to travel wherever they like – unless they want to leave the country and they happen to be behind in their child support obligations. You need a passport to travel abroad, and if your child support arrears reach a certain point, the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement will step in to make sure Passport Services denies your application. Your only option is pay what you owe, and to do so well in advance of your trip because the process of lifting the denial can take some time.

Passport Denial

If your child support arrears reach $2,500, your state's child support enforcement agency is obligated to report you to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. Under the terms of the Passport Denial Program, the OCSE alerts the U.S. Department of State that you owe arrears. The State Department then issues a notice to Passport Services that you're ineligible for a passport, and without one, you can't travel to Europe.

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Passport Revocation

You're not necessarily in the clear if you already have a passport and don't have to worry about applying for one. Some state child support enforcement agencies, such as those in Georgia and California, will set a similar process into motion to revoke your passport when your child support obligation reaches a certain point of arrears. If it's expired, state CSEAs can alert the State Department to prevent you from renewing your passport as well. Having your passport revoked when you're already overseas could cause you some major difficulties, so it never hurts to check the status of your child support account with your state before you travel.

Restoring Travel Privileges

If the OCSE denies your passport, you can't pay just enough to get your arrears down below the $2,500 limit. You must pay the entire past-due balance to your state's child support enforcement agency. If your passport has been denied, Passport Services will hold your application for 90 days, so you have this long to bring your child support account current. Then you'll have to allow time for your state's CSEA to reverse the process and notify the OCSE that you've paid, which can take another few weeks. Once it receives notice that you're current, Passport Services can go ahead and process your application. If more than 90 days has passed, however, you'll have to apply all over again.

Exceptions

If you're not paying your child support through state services, it's unlikely that your state's CSEA will takes steps to revoke or deny your passport for arrears. If you don't pay through the state, your CSEA wouldn't be aware that you've fallen behind with your payments. However, if your ex-spouse is aware that you plan to travel to Europe, she can apply for state services and notify the CSEA of your arrears. In some states, this is as simple as filling out an application for child support services online. If your arrears are over $2,500, the CSEA will move to block your passport. If your trip to Europe is for emergency purposes, such as an illness or death in the family, some states, such as California, will allow you to appeal the denial or revocation of your passport, but you may need the consent of your ex-spouse.

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Can Child Support Suspend Passports?

References

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Penalty for Non-Payment of Child Support in Texas

Divorce doesn't end a parent's responsibility to support his children financially, so when a court orders child support, Texas and the federal government require you pay it through income withholding. This obligates your employer to deduct your support from each of your paychecks and send it to the state. Texas then disburses the payments to your children's custodial parent.

Does Pennsylvania Take My Federal Tax Refund for Child Support?

All states, as well as the federal government, protect the well-being of children when their parents divorce. Parents are free to go their separate ways, but this doesn't mean their children need less or should enjoy less. Pennsylvania is aggressive when it comes to child support enforcement. Not only will the state take your federal tax refund if you owe arrears, it also has the full backing of the federal government behind it.

Federal Guidelines on the Collection of Child Support Arrears

In 1975 Congress passed the Child Support Enforcement and Paternity Establishment Program, or CSE, in response to increasing enrollment in federal welfare programs of children of separated parents. The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was established by the CSE to provide assistance to state and local law enforcement and social services agencies in creating and operating their child support enforcement programs. If administrative and local enforcement efforts are insufficient in aiding the collection of child support, the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998, or DPPA, provides for federal criminal prosecution of the most severely delinquent child support violators.

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