As many Tennessee residents know, judicial decisions made during a divorce are often critical in determining how children will adjust to big changes in their lives. Spouses may feel optimistic about the future, but children are often extremely anxious and uncertain because they may have to move and often see one parent less frequently. This is obviously the most common outcome when one parent is awarded custody and the other is ordered to pay child support.

Unfortunately, many parents fail to pay child support for a variety of reasons. If circumstances beyond their control such as unemployment or sudden medical problems make payments difficult, they can seek modifications in the support order. If the failure to pay support is deliberate or otherwise unjustifiable, however, the noncustodial parent will face increasing penalties until the outstanding support is paid.

At the federal level, any parent who owes $2,500 or more in child-support payments cannot receive a U.S. passport until the outstanding amount is paid or arrangements have been made to the state’s satisfaction. In order to obtain rights to a passport, the individual must first contact the Tennessee child-support agency in charge of payments. The child-support enforcement agency must then report to the federal Department of Health and Human Services that child-support payments have been made or arranged for.

The U.S. Health and Human Services will then remove the parent’s name from a list and provide updated lists to the Department of State that lists those who have made payments or arrangements and those who have not. Only after HHS has removed the individual’s name can the passport application process proceed. The U.S. Department of State’s Passport Services has no authority to take any action without confirmation from HHS.

Once the parent makes the support payment or has made satisfactory arrangements, it takes about three weeks for Passport Services to process the application.

Source: Travel.State.gov, “Child Support Payments and Getting a U.S. Passport,” Accessed on May 21, 2015