.Children are almost universally better off with support from both parents. Unfortunately, the reality most kids face is much different. There are family situations in which one parent is frequently on the move, or in some cases intentionally remaining difficult to find. This can have a big impact on things like child support.

Under Pennsylvania law, however, children of separated or divorced parents are expected to receive the same proportion of parental income as if their parents were still together. So if you don’t know where your child’s other parent is living, can anything be done?

Locating a non-custodial parent

There are tools to find non-custodial parents – even if they move around frequently and refuse to provide new contact information. In Pennsylvania, this process first goes through the Domestic Relations Section (DRS).

The DRS will ask for as much information as you have, such as the individual’s:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Phone number
  • Current or previous employer
  • Any other information that could be used to conduct the search

If more help is needed, the DRS can refer the case to the Parent Locator System. This system uses local, state and federal resources (such as databases) to try to find a non-custodial parent.

What happens next?

If this search locates the non-custodial parent, then there are two potential next steps. If the non-custodial parent is the father, then establishing paternity is the priority. If the mother is the non-custodial parent, then the goal is to set up a child support conference.

What if the non-custodial parent cannot be found? There are a couple of deadlines to keep in mind.

If DRS searches for a year and can’t locate the non-custodial parent, and they do not have a valid Social Security number for that individual, it can choose to close the case. Similarly, even if DRS has that piece of information, it can close the case after three years if the non-custodial parent has not been found.

The goal of child support is not to punish one parent over another. Rather, it is to create a system that prioritizes the well-being of the child while still being fair to everyone involved. This is the case whether a parent remains settled in one location or opts to move around.