Child Support Laws

Whether you are a custodial parent seeking child support or a non-custodial parent who may have to pay it, it’s important for you to understand the child support laws and how they apply to you. Unfortunately, that can be easier said than done, since you may need to deal with local, tribal, state, and federal child support systems. You may even have to deal with laws in more than one state, if the parents live in two different states. However, there are plenty of general guidelines and resources available to you.

Federal Child Support Laws

The first federally adopted law pertaining to child support was passed in 1910. It was called the Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act. It required husbands to support children up to the age of 16. However, it was only enforced in 24 districts and it had several loopholes. So, many parents got around it.

Since that time, there were more laws passed and amendments to existing acts in order to increase child support enforcement. For a good list of those laws, you can visit

These days, federal child support laws mainly pertain to cases where the parent is not living in the same state as the child. Those laws say that an individual who doesn’t pay court ordered child support for a child in another state for a year, or if the amount owed reaches $5,000 or more, that person could spend 6 months in jail or pay a fine. That is a misdemeanor. However, if the amount or length of time reaches double that, the offense becomes a felony and the parent may pay hire fines and spend up to 2 years behind bars. For more information on those laws, visit

Local and State Child Support Laws

Local and state child support agencies handle enforcing child support laws in cases where the parent and child live in the same state. It’s also worth noting that, if the child is Native American, you may need to consult a tribal child support agency. You should also be aware that you have to talk to the appropriate local, tribal, or state agencies first, even if you want to file a federal child support case complaint.

Local, tribal and state child support laws vary a bit from one jurisdiction to the next. However, they generally line up when it comes to certain things. Those things include:

  • Child support must be paid until a child reaches the age of 18. However, it may be paid for a longer period of time if the child is disabled.
  • Child support is calculated largely based on income in each state, but each state does have a slightly different formula for calculating payments.
  • Proof of paternity needs to be established before a father is required to pay child support.

If you have any other concerns about child support laws, you can talk to a caseworker at your local child support agency, or you can visit to learn more about how child support is assigned and enforced.