Seeking Child Support from Non-Custodial Parent Residing Outside the U.S.

By Joseph Vazquez, Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office

In the United States, the law sees to it that both parents provide support for their children when the parents are living separately. However, there are instances when one parent no longer lives in the United States, making the enforcement of child support collection outside of U.S. jurisdiction difficult. Before 1996, there was no mandate for states or the federal government of the U.S. to become involved in any international issues that dealt with child support. In the absence of any standardized international agreement in this area, states would use the system designed to address interstate child support cases to collect child support from non-custodial parents outside of the U.S. The arrangements made between states and foreign countries regarding child support were done voluntarily and out of respect for each other's national affiliation.

Eventually the Hague Child Support Convention, a branch of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, was established in 2013. It is a multilateral treaty that helps enforce judicial decisions regarding child support and other forms of family support. Currently there are 44 countries, including the U.S., who participate in the Hague Child Support Convention. This convention makes it so that the process of filing an international child support claim is easily accessible, and it makes the process of collecting child support more efficient. In addition, this service is free to citizens of the U.S. and the other nations involved in the convention.

The process of filing for international child support is simple and similar to the process of domestic child support filings. The person seeking child support must first contact the local child support office in-person or online, and let them know that the non-custodial parent is no longer in the U.S. Then they must complete a Hague Child Support application form. On that form, they must provide all possible information about the non-custodial parent, such as which country the non-custodial parent has fled to and where they are possibly staying.

Once the non-custodial parent is located, as is done with domestic child support cases, paternity of the parent must be established. Once this is done, the process of creating a support order can be finalized, with the collection and distribution of payment following soon after. Both the governments of the U.S. and the foreign nation involved will work together to ensure this process is done correctly and efficiently. If there were existing court orders prior to the non-custodial parent leaving, these orders would then be enforced, so long as they do not conflict with any laws with the nation involved.

If the non-custodial parent has gone to a country that has not yet joined the convention, it is still possible to have them pay child support. However, the process will take more time and might prove difficult, and the hiring of an attorney in that country might be necessary. Though the Hague Child Support Convention is relatively new, the number of countries joining the convention is growing, allowing the process of filing for international child support to be further streamlined and accessible.

If you have more questions about this topic, please schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney at Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office by either calling (915) 568-7141 during office hours or emailing anytime.