Can I Get a U.S. Passport if I Owe Child Support?

If you want to travel outside the United States, you’ll need a U.S. passport. Even Canada has tightened up its regulations and is now requiring that U.S. tourists have a passport before entering the Canadian Border.

You’re a U.S. citizen. You don’t have a criminal record and you’re not on probation, so you assume you shouldn’t run into any problems obtaining a U.S. passport, right? Not so fast. If you’re a non-custodial parent who owes more than $2,500 in child support, you cannot receive a U.S. passport. Your U.S. passport will be denied.

So, if you plan to travel abroad for work, to visit your family overseas, or to go on that second honeymoon with your new husband or wife, unfortunately you won’t be able to leave the country until you take care of your child support arrears. This is just another child support enforcement measure used to get parents to catch up on their child support.

Other common enforcement tools include:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Driver license suspension
  • Liens on property
  • Judgements, which affect credit
  • Tax refund intercept
  • Lottery winnings intercept
  • Bank levies
  • Suspensions on professional licenses

What Can You Do to Correct the Issue?

Suppose you’re planning a European vacation or your boss wants you to travel to China. Or, perhaps you want to fly overseas to adopt a child or go on a mission for your church. Regardless of your reason for leaving the U.S., you’re going to have to pay your child support arrears before you can obtain a U.S. passport.

If you try to ask the people at passport services for help, they won’t be able to because they don’t have access to your child support obligations, nor do they have authority to issue you a passport when your name has been reported to the Passport Denial Program.

Once you have paid off the child support arrears or made a satisfactory arrangement, California will request that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) removes your name from its database of parents who can’t get a passport – this can take up to two weeks. Once your name is removed from the list, your application for a U.S. passport can be processed.

Related: Advice for Divorced Dads

To learn more, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website. For help clearing up a child support matter in Ventura or the San Fernando Valley, contact Cutter & Lax.