Legal Authority & Functions

In 1975, the Congress of the United States enacted a federal law under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, along with other legislation, that required all U.S. states and territories to manage a child support enforcement program.  Established under the Administration for Children & Families, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) provides direction, guidance and oversight to State and Tribal Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program offices around the country.  The primary responsibilities of OCSE are to:

  • Provide technical assistance and training to the States and Tribes to help them develop effective enforcement systems;
  • Manage the United State and Tribes Central Authority for International Child Support;
  • Operate a national network of law enforcement, military and judicial liaison offices;
  • Develop, recommend and issue policies, procedures and interpretations for State and Tribal programs for locating non-custodial parents;
  • Establish paternity and orders for support, and obtain financial child support payments;
  • the access, visitation and fatherhood programs;
  • Develop procedures for review and approval of planning material;
  • Conduct audits of state and tribe child support programs; and
  • Assist in reporting procedures and maintain records for the operation of the CSE programs (i.e. amounts collected and disbursed, costs incurred in collection, etc.

OCSE also coordinates other enforcement systems including the child support provisions of the Welfare-to-Work program; authorizes applications from the states for permission to utilize U.S. courts to enforce court orders for support against absent parents; operates the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS); certifies to the Secretary of the Treasury amounts of child support obligations that require collection efforts; transmits to the Secretary of State certifications of arrearages for passport denial; and submits reports to Congress.

Enforcement Office Services