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Frequently Asked Questions about International Cases

Published: July 30, 2014

In the United States, state-level child support agencies manage individual child support cases, with help when needed from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). Note that OCSE does not work individual child support cases directly.  See the information for parents on OCSE's website for more about the U.S. child support program and the services that are available to children and families.

Child support cases involving foreign countries can be challenging, and they can take time to resolve.  If you are a custodial parent, your country of residence and the country of residence of the other parent will affect the steps you take to obtain child support services. You will find more information about this on our International webpage.  We also answer several frequently asked questions below.

Citizenship and Residency

  1. Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to request help from the U.S. child support program?
  2. Do I need to live in the U.S. to request help from the U.S. child support program?

The Hague Child Support Convention and Foreign Reciprocating Countries

  1. What countries have special arrangements with the U.S. or individual states regarding child support enforcement?

When the Custodial Parent Lives in the U.S.

  1. How can I get child support when the person owing support lives in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country?
  2. How can I get child support when the person owing support does not live in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country, but I think my state has reciprocity with that country?
  3. How can I get child support when the person owing support lives in a country that has no child support reciprocity arrangements with the U.S.?
  4. How do I apply for child support services in the U.S.?
  5. Are the child support services provided for an international case different than for a U.S. case?
  6. What if the person owing child support lives in a foreign country but works for a U.S. company or owns assets in the U.S.?

When the Custodial Parent Lives Outside the U.S.

  1. How can I collect child support from a person in the U.S. if I live in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country?
  2. How can I get child support from a person in the U.S. if I do not live in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country?
  3. How can I get support if I live outside the U.S., the person owing support lives in the U.S. but the child support order is from a third country?
  4. How can I get help locating the person who owes me support, if I don’t know what state they live in?
  5. How can I get support if I don’t live in the U.S., but the person owing support to me is a U.S. military service member?

International Child Abduction

  1. How can I get help if the other parent has taken the child to another country and will not return the child? 

Citizenship and Residency

  1. Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to request help from the U.S. child support program?

    Citizenship is not required for a person to apply for child support services.

  2. Do I need to live in the U.S. to request help from the U.S. child support program?

    Residency is not required for a person to apply for child support services. However, if you live outside the U.S., state law in the U.S. state you apply to will determine the help that the state can provide. (See FAQs under When the Custodial Parent Lives Outside the U.S.)

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Hague Child Support Convention Countries and Foreign Reciprocating Countries

  1. What countries have special arrangements with the U.S. or individual states regarding child support enforcement?

    The 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (the Hague Convention) has been in effect in the United States since Jan. 1, 2017. The Hague Convention provides greater cooperation and streamlines case processing among participating countries

    In addition to the Hague Convention, the U.S. government has federal-level reciprocity arrangements for child support with several other countries, called Foreign Reciprocating Countries. See the lists of Hague Convention countries and Foreign Reciprocating Countries and links to other useful information on our International webpage.

    If the custodial parent lives in the United States and the parent who owes child support lives in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country, the other country will assist the U.S. in working the case.

    If the custodial parent lives in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country, and the parent who owes child support lives in the United States, then the U.S. will assist the other country with its case.

    If the country involved in your case is not a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country, it may have a state-level arrangement with one or more U.S. states. For more information about state-level reciprocity and help with your case, see FAQ 5.

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When the Custodial Parent Lives in the U.S.

  1. How can I get child support when the person owing support lives in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country?

    Since the U.S. government has reciprocity with the country where the person lives, that country has an agency called a Central Authority to help process international cases.  You can apply for child support services in the U.S. state where you live, and the state child support agency will work the case directly with the other country.

  2. How can I get child support when the person owing support does not live in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country, but I think my state has reciprocity with that country?

    Some states have negotiated state-level arrangements with other countries.  You can see which countries your state has reciprocity with by checking OCSE's Intergovernmental Reference Guide.  From the map, click on your state, select the "Policy" tab, and then select “Reciprocity” to see which countries the state has child support reciprocity with.  You can also ask your local child support agency.

    If your state has state-level reciprocity with the other country, you can apply for state child support services, and the state agency can work the case directly with the other country.

  3. How can I get child support when the person owing support lives in a country that has no child support arrangements with the U.S.?

    In most cases, when there is no reciprocity with the other country, state child support agencies are not able to assist.  Contact your local child support agency to ask if it has any suggestions.  (See also FAQ 9).

    If your state child support agency is not able to provide child support services, you may choose to hire private legal counsel in the other country.  The U.S. Department of State’s website provides helpful information on retaining a foreign attorney.

  4. How do I apply for child support services in the U.S.?

    To apply for child support services in the U.S., contact your state or local child support office.  You can find your state child support agency website and general contact information on OCSE's online interactive map.  From the map, click on your state to find the link to the state’s child support website. Some states can take applications online.

  5. Are the child support services provided for an international case different than for a U.S. case?

    No. The state agency will provide the same services it would in a domestic case, to the extent possible, including locating a missing parent, establishing paternity, establishing a child support order, collecting support, and modifying and enforcing a support order. The types of services provided in a child support case sent to another country will depend on the facts of the case and the law of the other country, as well as the requirements of the international agreement that applies.

  6. What if the person owing child support lives in a foreign country but works for a U.S. company or owns assets in the U.S.?

    You should contact your state child support agency to see if they can provide any services.  Keep in mind that services are likely to be limited.  If a child support order has already been legally established, and if the other parent is working for a U.S. employer that has offices in the U.S., it may be possible to use income withholding or other legal remedies.  The agency may also be able to provide services if the person owns assets in the U.S.

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When the Custodial Parent Lives Outside the U.S.

  1. How can I collect child support from a person in the U.S. if I live in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country?

    Because your country of residence has federal reciprocity with the U.S., it has established a government agency as the child support Central Authority to assist you in sending your case to the appropriate U.S. state child support agency.  You may apply for services directly with your country's child support Central Authority.

    If you live in a Hague Convention country, you can find the address and contact information for your country's Central Authority either on the Hague Conference website. If you live in a Foreign Reciprocating Country, you can find these by following the links for your country from OCSE's International webpage.

    Once your country’s Central Authority sends your case to the U.S. state, the state will provide services.

  2. How can I get child support from a person in the U.S. if I do not live in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country?

    First, check to see if your country of residence has state-level reciprocity with the U.S. state where the person owing support lives.  To find this out, contact the child support agency in your country.  Or, you can check on OCSE's Intergovernmental Reference Guide.  From the map, click on the relevant state, select the "Policy" tab, and then select “Reciprocity” to see which countries that state has child support reciprocity with. If your country has state-level reciprocity with the state, contact the child support agency in your country for assistance.

    If your country does not have federal or state-level reciprocity for child support, you may be able to apply directly for services with the child support agency in the U.S. state where the person owing support lives. Contact the state's child support agency to find out if they can provide services. You can find a state’s child support website and general contact information on our interactive map. From the map, click on the state. There will also be a link to the state’s website.

    You do not need to be a U.S. citizen, or be living in the United States, to contact a U.S. state child support agency and ask for services.

  3. How can I get child support if I live outside the U.S., the person owing support lives in the U.S., but I have a child support order from a third country?

    If you reside in a Hague Convention country or a federal or state-level reciprocating country, you can apply for services through the child support Central Authority in your country.  (See FAQ 10).  If you reside in a non-reciprocating country, you may be able apply directly to the U.S. state child support agency where the person who owes support lives.  (See FAQ 11).

    If you have an existing child support order from a third country (not the United States and not a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country), the child support agency in the U.S. state where the person owing support lives may be able to enforce the order.  Contact the state agency to ask.

  4. How can I get help locating the person who owes me support if I don’t know what state they live in?

    If you live in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country, you may apply for services through the government agency designated as the Central Authority for international child support in your country.  The Central Authority in your country can ask the U.S. Central Authority (OCSE) for assistance in locating the parent owing support.

    If you do not reside in a Hague Convention country or a Foreign Reciprocating Country, see FAQ 11 for information on how to find out if a U.S. state can provide services.

  5. How can I get support if I don’t live in the U.S., but the person owing support to me is a U.S. military service member?

    If you reside in a Hague Convention country or a federal or state-level reciprocating country, you may apply for services through the government agency designated as the Central Authority for international child support in your country.  (See FAQ 10).

    If your country does not have a child support reciprocity arrangement with the U.S., you may be able to apply directly to the child support agency in the home state of the parent owing support.  (See FAQ 11).

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International Parental Abduction

  1. How can I get help if the other parent has taken the child to another country and will not return the child?

    You may contact your local police department to file a missing persons report, even if you think you know where your child is.  You may also contact the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs for assistance in cases of international parental child abduction.  The United States places the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been abducted across borders.  The U.S. Department of State’s website on International Parental Child Abduction provides more information.

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Last Reviewed: February 14, 2018

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