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Child-support failures in Virginia can bring federal charges

As in every other state, the welfare of minor children in a divorce is the foremost concern of Virginia legal authorities. State laws mandate that a court establish the custody arrangements for these children and require their support by one or both parents. In the typical case, one parent becomes the custodial parent and the other the financially supporting parent. In most disputes over how child support collection is enforced, custodial parents are encouraged to contact state authorities. In certain cases, however, the federal government can be called on to prosecute the worst offenders.

The federal Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 allowed for federal prosecution in some cases under the belief that it would deter defaults on support payments. When these simple misdemeanor charges were found to be insufficient, Congress passed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act to deal with the worst offenders. This act allows prosecution of certain offenses in federal court.

The worst scofflaws are subject to federal charges if they willingly fail to pay support for children living in different states, if their payments are overdue for more than one calendar year or are in excess of $5,000. These charges are criminal misdemeanors, and those convicted can only be sentenced to a maximum of six months in prison in addition to being fined.

Those who fail to make child-support payments for more than two years or owe more than $10,000 can be charged with criminal felonies. Convictions can bring up to two years in prison as well as fines.

Those who are required to pay support are also prohibited from leaving the country or crossing state lines if their intention is to avoid paying support that is more than one year overdue or amounts to more than $5,000. Violations are punishable by up to two years in prison.

Source:, "Child support enforcement," Accessed on April 9, 2015

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