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International Child Abduction


Published: February 25, 1999


RE: International Child Abduction.

Dear Colleague:

We want to alert you to a concern that has come to our attention regarding the responsibility of State IV-D agencies in providing services in cases where international child abduction is at issue.

There may be cases involving requests for IV-D services by or on behalf of an individual residing in a foreign country where it would be inappropriate or impossible for the IV-D agency to provide services. This includes situations in which the custody of the child is in dispute or determined to be in violation of State law or the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Of specific concern is a situation where an individual residing in another country who has abducted a child or refused to return the child after a holiday or a period of joint custody abroad, requests IV-D services to obtain child support from the parent in the United States who maintains legal custody of such child under State law.

There is no Federal mandate under title IV-D of the Social Security Act that requires IV-D agencies to enforce child support where a custody dispute exists. The State IV-D agency clearly has discretion not to proceed in providing child support enforcement services in cases of disputed custody, even where there is a State or Federal reciprocity agreement with the country in which the child is located.

In coordination with the Department of State, OCSE is available to provide guidance, information or assistance in any case that a State brings to our attention in which international child abduction is at issue. OCSE is strongly committed to ensuring that State IV-D agencies do not provide child support services in cases in which such services would unduly harm families involved in international child abduction.

Thank you for your continued efforts on behalf of America's children.


Paul Legler
Assistant Commissioner
Office of Child Support Enforcement

Last Reviewed: June 30, 2020

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