Deadbeat Dad Laws

The Dead Beat Dad law is a law that refers to a parent that fails to make their obligatory support payments for their children. Legally the law is called Deadbeat Parent Law. The slang term Dead Beat Dad law has been used by many child support agencies because of the larger number of men who fall into the category of dead beat. The dead beat dad law has federal and state regulations attached to it. While each state has its own legal system for enforcing the law, all states must comply with the federal standards for the law. These federal rulings state that a statute of limitations cannot be applied to this law, even if a state allows this. It also states that back child support cannot be absolved in bankruptcy and that payments must be made regardless of the situation or physical capability of the non-custodial parent.

Deadbeat Parents:

When a parent is ordered by the court to pay child support and continuously fails to do so, he or she is commonly referred to as a "deadbeat parent." This pejorative term is used the actual legislation of some states, and is often misunderstood. Parents who fall behind on child support due to job loss or unforeseen circumstances aren't necessarily "deadbeats." Deadbeat is generally reserved for those who have the means to pay, but do not. Parents who are unable to pay may be eligible for child support modification.

Stereotypes About Deadbeat Parents:

"Deadbeat parents" and "deadbeat dads" are not synonymous. Not all deadbeat parents are fathers, and not all non-custodial fathers are neglectfully behind on child support. In fact, there plenty of moms who have been ordered to pay child support, yet fail to do so, as you can see from jurisdictions that post lists of their most wanted deadbeat parents online.

Consequences for the Parent Who Does Not Pay:

There are several things the state can do when a parent falls behind in child support payments. These steps include:
  • Garnishing his or her pay
  • Refusing to allow the parent to obtain a legal passport
  • Intercepting unemployment compensation
  • Offsetting federal and/or state income tax refunds
  • Enforcing jail time

Taking Action When the Checks Stop Coming:

If you are owed back child support payments, you should contact your local Child Support Enforcement Office to report the lack of payments. Be prepared to provide detailed explanations of the missed payments, as well as any information you may have about the parent's last known location.

Inability to Pay:

It's also important to be aware that many times the parent who is in arrears simply does not have the money to pay the child support payments. In some cases, payments may need to be adjusted to reflect the individual's most current earnings. In other cases, the parent owes so much child support that the money will simply never be paid in full.

The Relationship Between Child Support and Child-Parent Visitations:

Child support is completely separate from visitations. In the eyes of the law, the parent who owes back child support payments still has the right to visit with the child. Therefore, any parent who is in distress over missing child support payments should take the steps outlined above instead of withholding visitations. Refusing to allow your child to visit with your co-parent because he or she has unpaid child support could jeopardize your good standing with the courts.


  • Because the list was created with the intent to prevent parents from evading prosecution, the Punishment Act states that the negligent parent and their child must live in separate states for the crime to get attention from federal agencies. If the parent does business in more than one state or country, an investigation will begin to see if they are using multiple employment locations to avoid reporting some of their income. Once a parent reaches the misdemeanor amounts owed and they are suspected of doing this, they are automatically placed on the list.


  • Disputes and cases about child support at the misdemeanor, state level are handled through the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) in the state of residence when the parent and child live in the same state. Once the Punishment Act is in effect and a person is charged with a felony and added to the Deadbeat List, they are beyond the CSEA`s jurisdiction.

National Deadbeat Dad Law

The National Deadbeat Dad List was created after the passing of two laws. The Child Support Recovery Act (CSRA) of 1992 gave state courts the power to force child support payments out of parents who have racked up misdemeanor-level penalties. The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1988 expanded this power to make parents that try to flee the area to avoid payments and other child-support related offenses susceptible to facing felony charges and being placed on the Deadbeat Dad List.