The Federal Child Support Program

The Federal Child Support Program is a partnership between the federal government and state, tribal, and local agencies to help families establish and enforce child support orders. The program is administered by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The program provides services such as locating noncustodial parents, establishing paternity, establishing child support orders, enforcing child support orders, and collecting and distributing child support payments. The federal government provides funding and guidance to the states, but each state is responsible for administering its own child support program.

The Federal Child Support Program also works with international partners to establish and enforce child support orders across borders. The program helps families to locate noncustodial parents who live in other countries, establish paternity in cases where the father is outside of the United States, and enforce child support orders against parents who live in other countries.

The federal child support program was established in 1975 under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. It functions in all states and several tribes and territories, through the state/county Social Services Department, Attorney General’s Office, or Department of Revenue. Most states work with prosecuting attorneys, other law enforcement agencies, and officials of family or domestic relations courts to carry out the program at the local level. American Indian and Native American tribes, too, can operate child support programs in the context of their cultures and traditions with federal funding.

State and tribal child support programs locate noncustodial parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce support orders, modify orders when appropriate, collect and distribute child support payments, and refer parents to other services. While programs vary from state to state, their services are available to all parents who need them.

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