One Step Closer to Enforcing Foreign Child Support Orders: U.S. Ratification of the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support is Near

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The cross-border enforcement of child support has long bedeviled parents and children who seek a delinquent parent’s compliance with a court order. Given the many difficulties inherent to the enforcement of court orders in foreign jurisdictions, as well as the heavy costs associated with those efforts, many parents had a difficult time registering and enforcing child support orders if the debtor was in another country.

Fortunately, several countries, including the U.S. and the various nations of the European Union, have signed and are in the process of ratifying the Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. This is a multinational treaty that sets up a mechanism enabling and facilitating the enforcement of child support orders (and, depending on the country, other family-related support orders) across the borders of the signatory states. Signatories, who are tasked with establishing a “Central Authority,” which will take requests – for free – to enforce an order. This way, a party can petition the country where the deadbeat parent resides and ask for the support order to be enforced against them. In order to provide relief, the authorities in that country are then supposed to use whatever means are available for the enforcement of similar domestic support orders.

The United States, which was one of the main drivers behind the treaty, signed it in 2007. It has not been ratified yet – meaning the U.S. is not yet a party – but President Obama and Congress have approved the treaty, and enacting legislation has been issued. The process is currently in the hands of all 50 states, each of which is individually tasked with approving legislature that implements the mechanics of the treaty. Idaho – where a legislative committee earlier this year had killed the bill, effectively stopping the treaty from being ratified at all by the federal government – recently did an about face and enacted the bill in a special session, avoiding the loss of tens of millions of dollars in federal benefits earmarked for the enforcement of domestic child support orders and other block grants.

Over 20 states have now approved the legislation, and, once the rest of the states follow suit, the U.S. will be able to ratify the treaty and provide its citizens with the same protections and enforcement mechanisms available to other parties to the Convention. There are more complexities to the enforcement of child support orders, including the choice of law provisions, but the treaty, once ratified, will be a tremendous source of aid for many parents looking to enforce child support orders against deadbeat parents.

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