What is the Pennsylvania approach to enforcing child support across state lines?

Understanding Interstate Child Support Enforcement in Pennsylvania

When a parent obligated to pay child support moves out of Pennsylvania, or when the custodial parent and child live in another state, enforcing and collecting child support can become more complex. Pennsylvania employs various tools and cooperates with other states to ensure that child support obligations are met, regardless of where the non-custodial parent resides. This interjurisdictional enforcement is crucial for the well-being of children whose parents live across state lines.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)

Pennsylvania has adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which provides a legal framework for interstate enforcement of child support. UIFSA has been enacted in all U.S. states and territories, allowing for cooperation between states in enforcing child support orders. Under UIFSA, a child support order issued in one state can be registered and enforced in another state without the need to obtain a new court order.

Interstate Cooperation Through the Child Support Enforcement Network (CSENet)

Pennsylvania also participates in the Child Support Enforcement Network (CSENet), an electronic information exchange system that helps states communicate about child support cases. CSENet enables Pennsylvania to send and receive requests for enforcement to other states quickly and efficiently.

Involving the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE)

In addition to state-level efforts, the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement provides assistance in cases where non-custodial parents are living in different states. The OCSE offers services such as locating non-custodial parents, income withholding across state lines, and intercepting federal tax refunds to cover past-due child support.

Income Withholding Orders

Pennsylvania can issue income withholding orders that require employers in other states to withhold a portion of the non-custodial parent's wages for child support. These orders are generally honored nationwide due to federal laws mandating employer compliance with child support withholding.

Contempt Proceedings and Criminal Charges

If a non-custodial parent willfully fails to pay child support, Pennsylvania may pursue contempt proceedings or criminal charges. In some cases, this can lead to extradition back to Pennsylvania if the individual is found guilty of failing to pay child support.

Case Example: Smith v. Jones

An example of Pennsylvania’s interstate enforcement can be seen in the hypothetical case of Smith v. Jones. In this case, Mr. Jones moved from Pennsylvania to California but failed to continue paying his court-ordered child support for his daughter living with Ms. Smith in Pennsylvania. Utilizing UIFSA guidelines, Pennsylvania's child support enforcement agency worked with California authorities to establish an income withholding order against Mr. Jones’ employer in California, ensuring the continuation of child support payments.


Pennsylvania's approach to enforcing child support across state lines is multifaceted and robust, designed to uphold the financial responsibilities of non-custodial parents irrespective of their location. By adopting UIFSA and participating in networks like CSENet, alongside federal collaboration, Pennsylvania demonstrates its commitment to ensuring that children receive the support they deserve.