Federal Child Support Enforcement

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The Federal Child Support Enforcement Program is essentially a partnership between the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and each state's local, state-run child support agency. On the federal level, the OSCE collects information from various agencies that can be used in locating parents. This information is then provided to local child support enforcement agencies, which then attempt to collect the unpaid child support.

Which Agencies Provide Information to the OCSE?:

The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement utilizes information provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Department of Defense (DOD). The information provided by these agencies helps the OCSE locate parents and enforce child support orders. When necessary, the OCSE will also involve the Department of State in order to prevent individuals with outstanding child support debt from obtaining a legal passport.

What Is the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)?:

This is a component of the OSCE which is responsible for locating parents. In part, they utilize information provided by the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), State Directories of New Hires (SDNHs), and State Employment Security Agencies (SESAs) to track down parents.

How Do I Ask for Help Collecting Child Support?:

Contact your local child support agency. Many agencies will even allow you to apply for services online.

Is There a Fee?:

If you currently receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid, you will not be charged a fee. If you don't receive assistance from these agencies, you may be charged a fee of up to $25 to apply for services through the OCSE.

How Quickly Can I Expect to Receive Help?:

Initially, you will be set up with a case worker who will walk you through the process of establishing paternity, locating the parent, obtaining a legal child support order, and eventually receiving child support. This is usually a lengthy process, as there are many separate agencies involved.