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Can the federal government enforce child support orders?

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2023 | Family Law

When you owe past-due child support, the government has the power to enforce a child support order. In Virginia, that includes the state’s Department of Child Support Enforcement (DSCE). On a federal level, it can also include the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OSCE) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which can collect past-due child support on behalf of the federal government and disburse it to the custodial parent.

How do they collect?

DSCE informs OSCE of identifying information of people who are behind on child support payments. The federal government determines if you are subject to the Federal Income Tax Refund Offset Program. In this program, the federal government reduces the noncustodial parent’s federal tax refund to offset unpaid child support payments. The offset amount is sent to DSCE (or other state child support enforcement agency) for disbursement to the custodial parent.

How does it work?

If you owe at least $500 in overdue child support payments (or $150, if the custodial parent receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits), you may be subject to a refund offset. Once the government qualifies your debt for the program, you will receive a pre-offset notice. Whenever an IRS payment is taken, you will receive another notice.

Is anything appealable?

Yes. Everything is appealable. The pre-offset notice can be appealed administratively, as can the offset notice. The notices will include information on how to appeal.

If you and your current spouse filed your taxes jointly, your spouse can separately appeal the IRS taking their portion of the refund through IRS form 8379 (Injured Spouse Claim and Allocation).

Many factors can impact the process and result of dealing with tax refund offsets. The stress of these minute complications can be alleviated through securing legal counsel with expertise in child support issues.