In the United States today, nearly one-third of all children are growing up in single-parent homes. Of all families owed child support, only half receive the full amount due, and a quarter receives nothing at all. The goal of the child support enforcement program, established in 1975 under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act and referred to as the IV-D program, is to ensure that children receive financial and emotional support from both parents.
Designed as a joint federal, state, and local partnership, the child support program involves 54 separate state and territory programs, each with its own unique laws and procedures. The program is usually run by state and local human service agencies, often with the help of prosecuting attorneys and other law enforcement officials as well as officials of family or domestic relations courts. At the federal level, the Department of Health and Human Services provides technical assistance and funding to the states through the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and operates the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS). OCSE assists states in locating noncustodial parents, in enforcing and establishing child support orders, and collecting child support.
The FPLS is an assembly of systems operated by OCSE, to assist states in locating noncustodial parents, putative fathers, and custodial parties for the establishment of paternity and child support obligations, as well as the enforcement and modification of orders for child support, custody and visitation. It also identifies support orders or support cases involving the same parties in different states. The FPLS helps federal and state agencies identify over-payments and fraud, and assists with assessing benefits. Developed in cooperation with the states, employers, federal agencies, and the judiciary, the FPLS was expanded by Welfare Reform to include:
Additionally, the FPLS also has access to external locate sources such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FPLS works in six ways to support state IV-D child support programs:
In child support cases, authorization to request information from the FPLS is limited to state child support agencies or agents/attorneys that represent those agencies to collect child and spousal support; certain courts or agents of the court; and, with limitations, state agencies that administer child welfare or foster care programs. In parental kidnapping, child custody, or visitation cases, certain agents and attorneys of the state or the court may request information from the FPLS. All requests for information from the FPLS must go through a State Parent Locator Service.
In addition, any authorized agency with legislative approval that meets other requirements that govern the data exchange or match may have access to the National Directory of New Hires.
Individuals may not make direct requests to the FPLS for information. By working with the state or local child support agency, you may be able to use the FPLS to help locate the other parent without applying for full child support services. Any request to the FPLS for information must go through a State Parent Locator Service. In addition, in issues of parental kidnapping, custody or visitation, all requests must first go through the court.
Federal law requires all states to protect the confidential information maintained by state IV-D agencies. At the federal level, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has established and implemented safeguards for the FPLS that:
All partners in the child support community recognize that ensuring the security of FPLS data is vital to the success of child support programs, and for protecting the privacy of American citizens.