7 FAM 1750
INTERNATIONAL CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT
(Office of Origin: CA/OCS)
7 FAM 1751 INTRODUCTION
7 FAM 1751.1 Role of The Department of State
a. Summary: The issue of international child support enforcement is a high priority to the United States. The Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) and the Office of the Legal Adviser for Private International Law (L/PIL) work closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement (HHS/ACF/OCSE), to find innovative solutions to international child-support enforcement problems. We:
(1) Provide information through the Consular Affairs Internet home page;
(2) Deny passport services, except for direct return to the United States, to persons HHS/ACF/OCSE certifies as $2500 or more in arrears (see 7 FAM 1387);
(3) Negotiate international child-support agreements; and
(4) Facilitate communication among parents, U.S. States, foreign countries, and other U.S. Government agencies on this important subject.
b. Who does what:
(1) The Office of Legal Affairs and Law Enforcement Liaison, Legal Affairs Division (CA/PPT/S/L/LA) plays an important role in child-support enforcement through passport denial as explained in 7 FAM 1387;
(2) The Office of American Citizens Services (ACS) and Crisis Management (CA/OCS/ACS), Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS), and the Office of Legal Advisor for Consular Affairs (L/CA), provide guidance to posts about this program as it pertains to passport issuance abroad;
(3) The Office of Legal Advisor for Consular Affairs (L/CA) and the Office of the Legal Adviser for Private International Law (L/PIL) work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS/ACF/OCSE) on negotiation of reciprocal child-support enforcement agreements with foreign countries; and
(4) Posts abroad provide a key element in the Department’s efforts to help with international child-support initiatives.
c. Parent Locate Services:
(1) Information regarding the whereabouts of U.S. citizens abroad contained in Department of State records, including passport records, OCS records, or U.S. embassy or consulate or Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) records abroad, are protected by the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a);
(2) However, upon a request by a U.S. State, agencies addressing child-support issues or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in relation to a child-support issue or case, the Department may generally disclose information, including location information, about a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) contained in CA/PPT or CA/OCS records under the Department's routine uses;
(3) The applicable routine uses do not authorize disclosure to private individuals;
(4) Release of information in passport records may only be authorized by CA/PPT (see 7 FAM 1300 Appendix J, "Release of Information from Passport Files"); and
(5) Information in OCS or overseas post ACS records may only be released by CA/OCS. See also STATE-05 on the Department of State Internet page for conditions of disclosure for OCS records. Posts can contact L/CA with questions.
NOTE: The Department, including posts abroad, does not conduct actual searches of Department records for U.S. citizens or U.S. non-citizen nationals owing child support. The post can provide private inquirers with a list of foreign attorneys who may be able to direct them to local private investigators.
d. Passport records: Child support enforcement agencies may submit requests for information from U.S. passport records to:
U.S. Department of State
e. Posts may not release passport records including PIERSACRQ records without authorization from the Department (CA/PPT/S/TO/RS).
f. Foreign requests about enforcement: Residents of other nations should contact family maintenance officials of their country for information and other assistance:
(1) If the foreign country is a party to the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance; or if there is an existing Federal bilateral child-support arrangement between the United States and the foreign country, or a U.S. State-level arrangement with the foreign country, the foreign country’s central authority should contact the State child-support enforcement agency in the State where the person owing child support resides. If the parent’s whereabouts are unknown, the foreign central authority can contact the Director, U.S. Central Authority for International Child Support, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS/ACF/OCSE); phone: 202 401-9373; fax: 202 401-5655;
(2) If there is no State-level arrangement, no Federal bilateral arrangement, or no Hague Child Support Convention relationship with the foreign country, it may be necessary for the individual seeking enforcement or the foreign authorities working on behalf of that individual to retain the services of a private attorney in the United States to attempt to enforce the foreign judgment in accordance with U.S. law. In some States, the individual seeking enforcement may be able to apply directly to a local child-support enforcement agency for receipt of Title IV-D child support services; and
(3) Effective January 1, 2017, the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance enters into force for the United States. It includes provisions regarding the recognition and enforcement of child-support orders. There is no other treaty in force between the United States and any foreign country on the subject of enforcement of judgments. See CA/OCS’s general guidance regarding enforcement of judgments on the CA Internet page. Information about lawyer referral services is available from the American Bar Association.
7 FAM 1751.2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement (HHS/ACF/OCSE)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support Enforcement (HHS/ACF/OCSE) is the office of the U.S. Federal Government charged with principal responsibility for this important subject. HHS/ACF/OCSE is also the U.S. central authority for Federal bilateral child-support agreements and for the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. HHS/ACF/OCSE has designated state IV-D child support agencies to perform those central authority functions under the Hague Child Support Convention that are related to the transmission and receipt of Convention applications, as well as the initiation of proceedings related to those applications. HHS/ACF/OCSE will help locate the debtor or the creditor if the Convention country does not know the State in which the person resides (see 7 FAM 1754 and 7 FAM 1755).
7 FAM 1751.3 U.S. State IV-D Child-Support Enforcement Agencies
Parents in the United States should contact their local office of child-support enforcement. These offices are generally known as the State IV-D agency, for Title IV-D of the 1975 Social Security Act, which established the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s U.S. Federal Child Support Enforcement Program (HHS/ACF/OCSE). If the parent in the other country is employed by a U.S.-based company or a U.S. Government agency, there are a variety of measures the local State IV-D agency may be able to take to assist the inquirer.
7 FAM 1752 AUTHORITIES
The legal authorities related to the Department of State’s efforts concerning international child-support enforcement include:
(1) 42 U.S.C. 659a, International support enforcement;
(2) 42 U.S.C. 652(k), Denial of passports for nonpayment of child support;
(3) 22 CFR 51.60(a)(2), Denial of Passports;
(4) 79 FR 49368;
(5) 18 U.S.C. 228, Failure to pay legal child support obligations: The Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA) of 1992 makes the willful failure to pay a past due support obligation with respect to a child residing in another State a Federal misdemeanor offense. The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (DPPA) of 1998 amended the CSRA of 1992. The DPPA established felony violations for traveling in interstate or foreign commerce to evade a child-support obligation or for failing to pay a child-support obligation which is greater than $10,000 or has remained unpaid for a period longer than 2 years. Previously, child support cases involved only a misdemeanor violation with a penalty of less than 1-year imprisonment;
(6) 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance;
(7) Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (2008); and
(8) Public Law 113-183, Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, required all States to enact any amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, “officially adopted as of September 30, 2008 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws,” referred to as UIFSA 2008. The UIFSA 2008 amendments integrate the appropriate provisions of The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.
7 FAM 1753 PASSPORT DENIAL, REVOCATION, AND CHILD-SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT
a. The U.S. Department of State and its embassies and consulates abroad deny the application or renewal of an obligor's passport if the individual owes more than $2500 in past-due child support, based on a certification by the responsible State child-support agency to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which in turn transmits it to the Department of State. The Department may revoke the passport of an obligor who is certified in arrears by HHS. See 7 FAM 1387, 42 U.S.C. 652(k), and 22 CFR 51.60(a)(2). The program was implemented jointly by HHS’s Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and the Department of State in June 1998. Reported collections total over $382 million in lump-sum payments since its inception. With over 4.3 million obligors certified to the Department of State by HHS/ACF/OCSE, it is estimated that nearly 100 passports are denied daily for child-support reasons.
b. The Department of State and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad have no authority to issue a U.S. passport, except for direct return to the United States, if a CLASS hold exists for child-support arrears certified by HHS. The passport applicant must contact the IV-D child-support enforcement office in the U.S. State where the obligation was ordered to resolve the matter. Only after the U.S. State notifies HHS that the arrearage has been resolved and HHS notifies the Department of State that the matter is closed and the name is removed from the CLASS system, may a passport be issued. The existence of a CLASS hold for child support arrearages does not make the person ineligible for other consular services, such as documentation of other children. See 7 FAM 1387 for more information on passport denial and revocation in child-support arrearages cases.
c. The prohibition applies to all types of passports, including official, diplomatic, service, and no-fee regular passports as well as regular passports and passport cards.
d. The statute has been challenged and upheld in two cases before Federal courts: Eunique v. Powell, 281 F.3d 940, 2002 (9th Cir. Cal. 2002 - statute does not violate Fifth Amendment freedom to travel internationally); Weinstein v. Albright, 261 F.3d 127; 2001 (2nd Cir. 2001 - statutory and regulatory scheme comports with due process and equal protection).
7 FAM 1754 MULTILATERAL TREATY - HAGUE CONVENTION on International Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance
a. The 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance enters into force for the United States January 1, 2017. This is the first global child support treaty ratified by the United States. It contains groundbreaking provisions that, for the first time on a worldwide scale, establish uniform, inexpensive, and effective procedures for the processing of international child-support cases. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be the U.S. Central Authority for the Convention.
b. The United States actively participated in the negotiation of this multilateral convention on child support under the auspices of the Hague Conference on Private International Law from 2003 until 2007.
c. The Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance was adopted at The Hague on November 23, 2007, and was signed on behalf of the United States of America on that date. The United States was the first country to sign the Convention.
d. The U.S. Senate provided its advice and consent to ratification of the Convention on September 29, 2010, subject to the following reservations, understanding, and declaration:
(1) In accordance with Articles 20 and 62 of the Convention, the United States of America makes a reservation that it will not recognize or enforce maintenance obligation decisions rendered on the jurisdictional bases set forth in subparagraphs 1(c), 1(e), and 1(f) of Article 20 of the Convention.
(2) In accordance with Articles 44 and 62 of the Convention, the United States of America makes a reservation that it objects to the use of the French language in communications between the Central Authority of any other Contracting State and the Central Authority of the United States of America.
The United States is not a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and understands that a mention of the Convention in the preamble of this Treaty does not create any obligations and does not affect or enhance the status of the Convention as a matter of the United States or international law.
The United States of America declares, in accordance with Articles 61 and 63 of the Convention, that for the United States of America the Convention shall extend only to the following: all 50 U.S. States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
e. Implementing legislation for the Convention was included in Title III of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, Public Law 113-183, which the President signed on September 30, 2014.
f. On August 30, 2016, the President signed the Instrument of Ratification. On September 7, 2016, the United States deposited its Instrument of Ratification at The Hague.
g. When the treaty goes into effect in the United States, we will have a treaty relationship with 32 countries, including the European Union.
h. U.S. families will benefit from the Convention’s expedited cost-free procedures for enforcing support orders. That means more U.S. families will receive timely support without regard to whether both parents live in this country.
i. We encourage other countries to consider becoming a party to this Convention.
j. See The Hague Conference Maintenance Obligations page.
k. Posts may address questions about this Convention to L/CA which will coordinate with the U.S. Central Authority, Department of Health and Human Services. Posts may also address questions directly to the U.S. Central Authority, HHS.
7 FAM 1755 BILATERAL RECIPROCAL AGREEMENTS AND UNILATERAL DECLARATIONS
a. 42 U.S.C. 659a authorizes the Secretary of State, under certain conditions and with the concurrence of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to declare a foreign country or political subdivision thereof to be a foreign reciprocating country for purposes of child-support enforcement. In order to be declared a foreign reciprocating country, a foreign country must have established or undertaken to establish procedures available to U.S. residents that are in substantial conformity with the following standards:
(1) Procedures for the establishment of paternity;
(2) Procedures for the establishment of support orders;
(3) Procedures for the enforcement of support orders;
(4) Procedures for the collection and distribution of payments under support orders;
(5) Provision of all of these services, including administrative and legal assistance where necessary, without cost to the United States resident; and
(6) Establishment of a "central authority" to facilitate implementation of support enforcement in cases involving residents of the United States.
b. Questions from foreign countries regarding negotiation of a child-support agreement with the United States should be directed to the Office of the Legal Adviser for Private International Law (L/PIL) and L/CA.
c. U.S. Central Authority: The U.S. Central Authority for these bilateral agreements is the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement (HHS/ACF/OCSE). Questions about bilateral child support enforcement issues may be addressed to U.S. Central Authority, HHS. Questions may also be directed to L/CA for coordination with HHS.
d. See HHS/ACF/OCSE International for a list of countries with which the United States has bilateral reciprocal agreements or unilateral declarations.
7 FAM 1756 U.S. State-level reciprocal arrangements
a. In addition to providing authority for Federal-level child support declarations, 42 U.S.C. 659a provides that:
"[S]tates may enter into reciprocal arrangements for the establishment and enforcement of support obligations with foreign countries that are not the subject of a [Federal] declaration … to the extent consistent with Federal law."
b. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which has been adopted by every State, provides that a State may enter into reciprocal arrangements for the enforcement of child-support obligations with a foreign country that has procedures the State determines to be substantially similar to UIFSA. Each U.S. State and territory with a federally funded child-support program has provided information about reciprocal arrangements it may have with other countries in its response to the section titled "reciprocity" on the HHS/ACF/OCSE Intergovernmental Referral Guide.
7 FAM 1757 CHILD-SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AND PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION
a. According to the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement policy issuance Dear Colleague Letter (DCL-99-19), “there is no Federal mandate under title IV-D of the Social Security Act that requires IV-D agencies to enforce child support where a custody dispute exists. The State IV-D agency clearly has discretion not to proceed in providing child-support enforcement services in cases of disputed custody, even where there is a State or Federal reciprocity agreement with the country in which the child is located.”
b. Additionally, as the United States recognized when the Hague Child Support Convention was transmitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification:
"Pursuant to Article 22(a), the public policy exception, a U.S. competent authority could decline to recognize and enforce a decision against a left-behind U.S. parent in an abduction case where the child had been wrongfully taken or retained, on the grounds that recognition and enforcement of such a decision would be manifestly incompatible with the U.S. public policy of discouraging international parental child abduction" - Treaty Doc 110-21, Senate, 110th Congress, 2nd Session
c. Questions about international child support enforcement and international parental child abduction should be directed to L/CA for referral to our colleagues at HHS/ACF/OCSE.
d. Under certain circumstances the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) may be used for enforcing a Federal or State law with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child or making or enforcing a child custody or visitation determination. For additional information, see AT-03-06: "Requests for Information from the Federal Parent Locator Service for Parental Kidnapping, Child Custody, or Visitation Purposes" (Dec. 22, 2003) and related OCSE Policy Documents. The Office of Children's Issues (CA/OCS/CI) utilizes the FPLS in order to locate taking parents in the United States in accordance with 22 U.S.C. 9008(d).
7 FAM 1758 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE EMPLOYEES
a. 22 CFR 172.2(d) – Service of Process Official Personnel provides:
"Although the Department is not an agent for the service of process upon its employees with respect to purely personal, non-official litigation, the Department recognizes that its employees stationed overseas should not use their official positions to evade their personal obligations and will, therefore, counsel and encourage Department employees to accept service of process in appropriate cases, and will waive applicable diplomatic or consular privileges and immunities when the Department determines that it is in the interest of the United States to do so."
b. 2 FAM 511.1b provides guidance about service of process and garnishment or attachment of remuneration of an employment of the Department or the Foreign Service. Anyone receiving legal process for garnishment or attachment of remuneration of an employment of the Department or the Foreign Service shall promptly forward the process to the Executive Office of the Office of the Legal Adviser and (L-H/EX) as explained in 2 FAM 511.1, paragraph b. See also 4 FAH-3 H-547.3, Garnishment, and 3 FAM 4139.9, Financial Responsibility.
c. Other questions may be directed to the Department of State, Office of Employee Relations, Conduct, Suitability, and Discipline Staff (GTM/ER).
7 FAM 1759 CHILD SUPPORT AND THE U.S. MILITARY
a. Interested persons may wish to contact the local military command or the Judge Advocate General’s Office for the applicable branch of the military.
b. With the possible exception of the Army, each military branch maintains a locator service that will provide immediate family members with location information about a service member. For active duty members, the address information that the military locator services provide is the member’s unit address, which may include an APO (Air/Army Post Office) or FPO (Fleet Post Office) designation if the member is abroad. For more information, view the FAQ on Locating Service Members and Getting a Mailing Address. Additionally, most large military bases maintain legal-assistance offices. The legal-assistance attorneys’ duties include helping military spouses and dependent children obtain the service member’s military address. They are not legally required to assist parents who have never been married to the service member.
c. The Department of Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) processes child support garnishments for all branches of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), including the pay for members who are on active duty, in the reserves, and retired from military service. It also processes the pay for civilian Department of Defense employees, but does not process payroll for civilian employees of government contractors working on a military project. The U.S. Coast Guard is within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and not part of the Defense Department; it therefore has its own payroll processing center. There is a link on the garnishment page that takes the user to a page with information on child support and alimony, including frequently asked questions and answers.
d. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement (HHS/ACF/OCSE), has material available on its website that is related to service members and veterans, including A Handbook for Military Families: Helping You with Child Support; A Trainer's Guide for Working with the Military on Child-Support Matters; and fact sheets related to military and child support partnerships, listed under Child Support Core Mission.
e. For problems concerning the use of the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention) or the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory and Additional Protocol (Inter-American Service Convention) to serve process on members of the U.S. military in the United States or abroad, contact L/CA. L/CA will endeavor to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Office of Foreign Litigation (DOJ/CIV/OFL), the U.S. Central Authority for the service of process treaties, known under the treaties as the “Office of International Judicial Assistance,” and the Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Private International Law (L/PIL), and HHS/ACF/OCSE. Depending on the terms of applicable Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA), the host-country Central Authority under these treaties may or may not have access to the military base to attempt service. The use of letters rogatory to attempt service on a member of the U.S. military abroad is not recommended since this would involve the host-country government, which again may not have access to the U.S. military base (see 7 FAM 900).
f. Child-support enforcement legal considerations:
(a) American Bar Association (ABA) Service Members Civil Relief Act;
(b) The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School U.S. Army;
(c) American Bar Association, The Judge Advocate General's School Guide to the Service Members Civil Relief Act (American Bar Association 2007);
(d) Service Members Civil Relief Act a Guide for Family Law Attorneys;
(e) North Carolina State Bar Association Legal Assistance for Military Personnel, Child Support;
(f) Odom, J., A Judge's Benchbook for the Service Members Civil Relief Act (2011);
(g) Office of Child Support Enforcement, Applying the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Benchcard (May 15, 2012);
(h) Sexton, Lt. Col. Jeffrey P. and Jonathan Brent, "Child Custody and Deployments: The States Step in to Fill the SCRA Gap," The Army Lawyer 9 (Dec. 2008);
(i) Sullivan, Mark, The Military Divorce Handbook, "Chapter 4, Family Support" (American Bar Association 2nd ed. 2011); and
(j) Zoop, Protecting Soldiers from Their Spouses: The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, Family Advocate, Vol. 23, No. 2 (2000);
(k) Carlson, M.H., United States Perspective on the New Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, 43 Fam. L.Q. 21 (2009);
(l) Dehart, G., Comity, Conventions, and the Constitution: State and Federal Initiatives in International Support Enforcement, 28 Fam. L.Q. 89, 92-99 (1994);
(m) Office of Child Support Enforcement, IM-16-02: 2008 Revisions to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (June 2016);
(n) Pfund, P., The Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention and Federal International Child Support Enforcement, 30 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 647, 659 (1997);
(o) Sampson, J., Reporter, with Barry J. Brooks, "Integrating UIFSA (2008) with the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance," 49 Fam. L.Q. 179 (Summer 2015); and
(p) Smith, M.R., "Child Support at Home and Abroad: Road to the Hague," 43 Fam. L.Q. 37 (2009).
7 FAM Exhibit 1750
CA/OCS Internet International Child-Support Enforcement legal considerations
CA/PPT Internet Child Support Arrearage Passport Denial page
HHS/ACF/OCSE Foreign Reciprocating Countries page
HHS Intergovernmental Referral Guide (IRG) to U.S. States
2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance
Senate Executive Report 111-2
Treaty Doc 110-21