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How Do I Find a Parent for Child Support?

Courts often order divorcing parents to come to an agreement for child support payments. These arrangements order one parent to pay the other on a monthly basis. The payment amount is based on the child's needs and the parent's income.

If you were ordered to receive these payments from your ex but they are failing to pay, you may be looking for solutions to enforce your child support order. Parents who evade paying their obligations are commonly referred to as "deadbeat" parents. Before you can enforce the child support order, you will first need to find your obligated ex.

This article provides general information about how to find a parent for child support, whether the other parent is ducking their responsibility or denies paternity.

How to Find Parents for Child Support: General Guidelines

Regardless of your state's laws, the best way to find an elusive obligated parent is to gather as much personally identifying information as possible. If the parent is a former spouse, some of this information may be easier to find.

The following types of information may help state authorities or caseworkers find an otherwise unresponsive parent:

  • Social Security Number
  • Names of the obligated parent's friends, employers, coworkers, or family members who may have relevant information
  • Copy of the order for child support
  • The date of birth of the obligated parent
  • Addresses of past and/or present workplaces or residences, with their employer's name(s)

Additionally, the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) maintained by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) assists state child support programs by collecting data from various sources. State agencies use data compiled through the FPLS to establish paternity and find deadbeat parents.

Finding a Deadbeat Parent: State Procedures and Tactics

Child support enforcement is handled at the state level, and often uses tools such as wage garnishments and the withholding of state benefits to enforce orders. But, different states have different ways to help parents find obligated parents who are evading payment.

One popular method is to put the names and pictures of deadbeat parents, along with the amount owed, on billboards or websites (the Delinquent Parents site maintained by the Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services, for example). But while states have several different enforcement procedures, they are all meant as incentives and are not necessarily effective at finding deadbeats who are on the run or in hiding.

The State and Tribal Child Support Agency Contacts directory maintained by the federal government provides more information on how to find a parent for child support.

How to Find a Parent for Child Support in Another State

States have jurisdiction and the resources to track down deadbeat parents who live in the same state as the other parent. However, it's much more difficult to enforce a child support order when the obligated parent crosses state lines, even if court orders are issued. While the federal Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act requires states to enforce valid child support orders from other states, actual enforcement is another matter.

Often, the deadbeat parent is able to elude authorities until they're stopped by police (a routine traffic stop, for instance) and checked for outstanding warrants. Some delinquent deadbeat parents work for cash in order to avoid wage garnishment, regardless of which state they are in.

In practice, parents who are unable to find an out-of-state deadbeat parent nearly always do the investigative work themselves or hire a private investigator (P.I.). Some P.I.s are licensed to operate in more than one state. Also, you may be able to recover the cost of hiring a P.I. from the obligated parent.

Trying to Find a Parent? A Child Support Attorney Can Help

Child support payments are absolutely critical to parents struggling to make ends meet while covering the costs associated with parenthood. So, when an obligated parent fails to do their share, it can cause major hardship in the family.

An experienced child support attorney will be able to work the system to get your child the financial support they deserve.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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