Establishing and Enforcing Child Support Orders Across State & International Lines
Our global economy has resulted in more mobility. It’s not uncommon for parents of minor children to accept job opportunities not just in another state, but in another country. Besides the challenges that long-distance parenting brings, what about child support issues and enforcement when the paying parent moves away?
Certainly a parent may conclude he or she needs a “fresh start” in another state, but a parent could also decide to move out of state for the express purpose of evading his/her Massachusetts support obligations. The decision of a parent to move across state lines often prompts unique legal challenges and procedural hurdles in the area of child support. Interstate child support cases pose legal questions such as which state has proper jurisdiction to establish, modify or enforce court orders. It’s always advisable to see the assistance of a trusted Massachusetts child support attorney.
Historically state law has governed child support issues. However, the U.S. Congress recognized the need for a uniform child support system throughout the nation. Congress drafted the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) which evolved after amendments and modifications into the current Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).
All 50 states have now enacted a version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). UIFSA sets forth guidelines to determine the proper jurisdiction for a child support case and governs which state’s child support laws should apply. As you can probably tell, trying to figure this out on your own is a little overwhelming.
UIFSA sets forth uniform procedures to either establish or enforce a support order against a parent who resides in another state. A parent can either use the services of their state child support agency or retain a private attorney. An attorney can help the process move forward in an expedited and efficient fashion and ensure your rights are protected. Jurisdictional issues can be complicated so it’s strongly advised to retain an attorney who is knowledgeable with interstate child support laws.
At The Divorce Collaborative LLC, we have experience in these matters. If you need assistance, please call (877) 842-1199.
The interstate case starts with the transmittal of a “UIFSA Petition” to the state court that has proper jurisdiction of the matter. The petition will specifically state whether the petitioner (or plaintiff) is seeking the establishment, modification or enforcement of a child support order against the respondent (or defendant). The petition will also include basic information about the parties and the child(ren) subject to the action. The petition will include a section titled “General Testimony.” The general testimony is signed by the petitioner and usually contains detailed financial data and background information or affidavits about the case.
Interstate petitions that are sent to other states for enforcement purposes will contain a certified copy of the court order the petitioner is seeking to enforce and a detailed statement setting forth the amount of child support the respondent or defendant owes.
If a child’s paternity has not been established, a UIFSA petition can also be an effective tool to establish a child’s paternity as well as establish a child support order for the child.
Frequently Asked Interstate Child Support Case Questions
Question 1: After our divorce, my Ex-Husband moved to another state and now earns more money. Can I ask a Massachusetts court to increase the child support order or do I have to file a modification in the state where he now resides?
Answer: Massachusetts still retains jurisdiction, therefore you can file a modification here. The state that originally enters a child support order retains Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction (CEJ) over the child support order so long as one of the parties still resides in state. The purpose of this law is to assure that there is one order at a time and prohibits multiple states from entering numerous child support orders.
Question 2: I was divorced in Texas and then moved to Massachusetts with my children. My ex-husband still resides in Texas. He filed a complaint for modification to lower his support in a Texas court. Doesn’t he have to come to Massachusetts if he wants to reduce his child support?
Answer: No. Texas still has jurisdiction over the support order. Since the child support order was entered in Texas and one party still resides there, Texas retains CEJ of the child support order. Since you were divorced in Texas, the court still has personal jurisdiction over you and subject matter jurisdiction over the child support case. I would advise you to hire a child support attorney to represent you.
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Question 3: My child was born in California. I moved to Massachusetts six months ago. My ex-boyfriend refuses to acknowledge our child and hasn’t provided any support. He still lives in California and has never been to Massachusetts. Can I file for child support and if yes, where should I file?
Answer: Yes, you can file for child support and to establish your child’s paternity. However, the case needs to be filed in California since Massachusetts doesn’t have personal jurisdiction over your ex-boyfriend. A UIFSA petition can be sent on your behalf to the State of California’s child support agency with a request to establish paternity and child support. If Genetic Marker Testing (GMT or sometimes referred to as DNA testing) is required UIFSA sets forth procedures for the testing.
Question 3 (a): So, will I have to travel to California to attend the court hearing?
Answer: No. Under UIFSA, your appearance is not necessary. UIFSA sets forth procedures for granting a telephonic hearing where you may be able attend the hearing on the telephone.
Question 4: My ex-husband owes thousands of dollars in back child support. He has missed numerous court dates in Massachusetts on contempt charges. I know he lives in Iowa but he won’t come back to Massachusetts because he knows there is a civil arrest warrant for him. Is there any thing I can do to enforce the order against him?
Answer: Absolutely! An interstate petition can be sent to the Iowa child support enforcement division with a certified copy of the Massachusetts child support order. The Iowa court can register the Massachusetts order for enforcement purposes and bring contempt charges against your ex in Iowa. It’s often more effective to enforce the child support order in your ex’s “back-yard” or corn field, in this instance.
Question 5: My Ex moved out of the country to England. She doesn’t even know the language! Our divorce agreement requires her to pay me $150.00 per week for our son. She has not paid me anything since she left the country. Can I get her to pay support even though she lives in England?
Answer: Yes. You are in luck! England and the United States have a child support treaty which allows the U.S. government to work with the English government to assist citizens in enforcing child support orders. An attorney can guide you through the international child support maze to help your son get the support he’s entitled to!
Many, but not all foreign countries have child support treaties with the U.S. If the other parent lives out of the country, a child support enforcement attorney will be able to advise you whether you have any international child support remedies.
If you have a Massachusetts child support issue, including an international or interstate child support case, call A Massachusetts child support lawyer for help THAT HAS EXPERIENCE WITH INTERSTATE AND INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT CASES . Call (508) 346-3805 to schedule an appointment with us.