The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act is a federal law that punishes parents who move to another state with the purpose of willfully failing to make child support payments. As a federal law, the act applies to residents of all states, and a DPPA action can be brought in any federal court in any state.
Under the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, parents charged with a violation can face a fine of over $5,000 for missing child support payments for longer than a year and a fine of over $10,000 if they missed payments for longer than two years. Additionally, there is a potential jail sentence of up to six months for a first offense, and further offenses carry potential prison terms of up to two years.
Penalties under the DPPA do not replace child support payments. Even when parents are fined, they must still make full payment of any outstanding child support and remain current on future payments.
This law creates a risk of criminal charges for parents who never actually intended to avoid child support. Because courts determine intent subjectively, there is a risk that the judge might find willful failure to pay in a situation where a parent attempted to move to increase their income but was unable to find higher-paying work.
In these types of cases, it can be critical to have an experienced attorney who is able to argue the facts and circumstances of the case in a way that clearly demonstrates to the judge why criminal charges aren’t appropriate. While it’s important to pay child support, including any missed payments, the intent of the law is to reserve criminal punishment for parents who actually attempted to evade paying child support not those who have fallen on hard times.