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House Passes International Child Support Legislation

This past Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 4282, which puts the the United States one step closer to the easier and more effective collection of child support payments from parents living abroad. The International Child Support Recovery Improvement Act of 2012, passed unanimously by the House, provides key language that will allow the U.S. and individual states to implement the terms of the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance.

As reported by WTOP and other outlets (via the Associated Press):

The 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance has been signed by the United States, the European Union and several other mostly European countries, including Ukraine, Albania, Norway and Bosnia and Herzegovina. So far, only Norway has ratified it.

Under federal law, ratification of a treaty like the 2007 Hague Convention requires cooperation between the President and the Senate. The President is empowered to negotiate and sign a treaty, but two-thirds of the Senate must consent to the ratification of a treaty before it can become binding on the United States.

The Senate gave its consent to the 2007 Hague Convention in 2010, so at this point the issue is implementation, not ratification.

A treaty by itself is an agreement, similar to a contract, whereby international states or organizations agree to a set of rules. Signing a treaty obligates the United States not to take actions that would go against the purpose of the treaty itself, but the treaty does not change the laws of the United States. That can only be done through the legislative process, with bills like HR 4282 being drafted, passed, and (hopefully) signed into law by the President to modify U.S. law to implement the treaty and enable the United States to fully comply with its terms and obligations.

As things currently stand, states can (and mostly do) recognize foreign child support orders, but problems arise when foreign countries do not reciprocate these efforts, making it extremely difficult to collect child support from parents subject to U.S. child support orders living abroad. It is not uncommon for parents and children to wait several years before the foreign country establishes and enforces a child support obligation. This problem is what the 2007 Hague Convention was designed to combat, and implementing this treaty through HR 4282 will help cut down this lag time.

In an increasingly interconnected world, more and more individuals live and work outside of the United States. As more parents leave their children behind, for work or otherwise, the issue of international child support enforcement will only become more important. The family law attorneys at Livesay & Myers, P.C., handle child support cases throughout Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, Woodbridge, Stafford, Fredericksburg, and all of Northern Virginia. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.