Child Support and Immigration Attorney

Will Not Paying My Child Support Hurt My Chances of Gaining Citizenship?

If you are applying for U.S. citizenship, your application may be denied for a number of reasons. Noncustodial parents (parents without physical custody of their children) can be required under a court order to pay child support under Kentucky law. Federal law considers non-payment of child support a legal and moral issue when determining citizenship.

In addition to not paying child support, other issues that can prevent obtaining citizenship are non-payment of taxes, failure of males 18 to 25 to sign up for Selective Service, and evidence of bad moral character.

Noncustodial parents applying for citizenship must show that they’re financially supporting their minor children. If there is a child support order, the applicant should show proof that he or she is complying with that order. If the person has fallen behind in child support payments, he or she could be denied citizenship, but this isn’t an automatic bar to naturalization.

  • If the person intentionally and willfully failed to pay support for minor children, the citizenship application will be denied.
  • If the applicant can give a reasonable explanation as to why he or she hasn’t fully paid their child support obligations and provide evidence of their financial situation, they may still be able to obtain citizenship.

Often parents fall behind in payments when their income unexpectedly decreases due to a job loss or if they have to pay an unplanned, large debt like medical expenses. In these circumstances, the parent can ask to have the support order modified and payments lowered to reflect their financial situation.

  • It may be difficult to change payment obligations because state guidelines establishing payment amounts are given a lot of weight.
  • These guidelines take into account both parents’ gross incomes, the number of children, work-related child care costs, extraordinary medical and educational expenses and the children’s health insurance premiums.
  • If the party seeking a modification can show a serious enough “material change of circumstances” in their finances, they may be successful.

The parent should also make good faith efforts to pay child support (even if the entire amount isn’t paid) and document those efforts. It will help the applicant if he or she can show Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement (ICE) the following evidence:

  • Copies of documents establishing that the person is seeking to modify the support order
  • A “pink slip” notice or a letter of termination from a former employer
  • Copies of bank statements
  • Copies of checks showing what child support has been paid.

Ideally the person at ICE who is reviewing the situation will understand that it is not possible to get child support payments from someone who simply doesn’t have the money to pay them.

If you live in Kentucky and you have questions about applying for citizenship or how child support obligations may impact that application, contact our office so we can discuss the legal process, the applicable law and how we can help.