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House passes international child support legislation

Washington state non-custodial parents who relocate to another country must continue to honor their financial obligations to support their children. Readers of this Spokane Family Law Blog will recall a recent post regarding the award of child support to a Russian child abandoned by his American adoptive mother. In that case, a state court exercised its jurisdiction over the mother, who was in the United States.

What happens, however, to the enforcement of child support if a parent relocates to another country?

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill putting the United States in line to ratify an international treaty on child support. Countries ratifying the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance would work together to enforce child support awards.

So far, the United States and the European Union have signed the treaty, as well as several other countries. Among the signatories, only Norway has ratified the treaty.

The House legislation adds the necessary language for ratification. The Senate already consented to the treaty two years ago.

Fifteen bilateral child support agreements already exist between the United States and other countries and the treaty would likely increase the scope of international child support collection efforts.

State courts make determinations regarding child support, visitation, child custody and parenting plans. State administrators report that, even in working with countries in bilateral agreements with the United States, families commonly wait five or more years for child support obligations to be confirmed. One state administrator testified at a recent House hearing that her office is currently working in more than 4,000 cases to obtain child support from noncustodial parents in other countries.

The treaty would standardize the information-sharing process among participating countries, which is aimed at more efficient and timely enforcement of child support.

Source: The Washington Post, "House acts on international child support treaty," June 5, 2012

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