Child Support Across State Lines:
The most difficult child support cases to pursue are those in which the parent who does not have custody of the child(ren) lives in one state and the child(ren) and the custodial parent live in another (interstate child support).
Federal law requires all states to provide Child Support Services to all
families that have applied for such services, including location, paternity establishment, and/or establishment of support obligations, regardless of where the paying parent resides. Federal law also requires states to meet specific time frames in the provision of these services, even when one parent is in a different state from where the child(ren) live.
Although state enforcement agencies must cooperate with each other in handling requests for assistance, the reality is that it is not a simple matter for one state to automatically enforce the court orders of another state.
Every state has a unique court system with varying laws, practices and traditions. Matters of family law have traditionally been considered to belong to states and local governments, and, in general, citizens fall under the personal jurisdiction of the courts where they live.
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
The primary legal tool for interstate Office of Child Support Services is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which is a federal law. All states have adopted UIFSA laws substantially similar to the Federal model, and rely heavily on them for pursuing establishment and enforcement in other states. UIFSA provides extended powers to states to reach beyond their own state lines for the establishment and enforcement of interstate child support orders. It also allows a state to enforce a support order that was made in another state. When legal action is needed to establish or enforce an order in another state, there are new laws and procedures that simplify and speed up the process.
Interstate wage withholding
Interstate child support wage withholding can be used to enforce a support order in another state if the non-custodial parent’s employer is known. When this is the case, weeks of waiting for court dates in the other state can be eliminated. With interstate wage withholding, the Office of Child Support Services in the state where the custodial parent lives will send a wage withholding order directly to the non-custodial parent’s employer. The order does not have to go through the obligor’s state court as it would if the enforcement action was requested to that state under the UIFSA law or under an interstate Office of Child Support Services petition. Because state laws vary, you will need to ask your child support agent whether this technique will work in your case.
All states have an office called “Central Registry”, to receive incoming interstate child support cases and petitions. They are responsible to review them in order to make sure that the information provided is complete, to distribute them to the right local office, and to reply to status inquiries from child support offices in other states. Standard forms are available to make it easier for child support agents to find the information they need to enforce a case, and for them to be sure they are supplying enough information for another state to enforce their case.
When one state enters an order requiring a person in a different state to pay support, the state that entered the order can use its laws to collect the support. The state that entered the order may also register the order for enforcement only in the other state. The other state cannot change the support order, but uses its laws to collect the support as if it had entered the order.
Under UIFSA, several factors are used to help decide which state may change the order. If either of the parties or any of their children still lives in the state that issued the controlling order, only that state’s courts may change the support amount. If neither party nor any of their children still live in the state that issued the controlling order, that state cannot modify the interstate child support order.
UIFSA allows both parties to agree in writing that a state where one of them lives may take control of the case and change the support amount. Otherwise the party who wants to change the order must register the order for modification in the state where the other party lives. Once a new state
modifies an order, the original state loses its CEJ and the new state then has acquired CEJ.
Once a state changes another state’s order, it must begin collecting the
current support. Other states that previously issued orders may not continue to charge current support, but they may collect past-due support and enforce other provisions that were unmet in their previous orders.
An order issued in one state must be registered in another state (the “responding state”) before that second state can enforce or modify the interstate child support order. A responding state enforces registered support orders issued in another state exactly as it would enforce orders issued by its own courts.
The registration process starts when the state that issued the interstate chld support order sends copies of the order and related documents to the responding state’s UIFSA agency. When the documents arrive, the responding state will file them with
the correct local office. That office then sends copies of the documents and a UIFSA notice to the other party in the case.
The other party has 20 days to object to the order being registered. This is the only opportunity to object. If the non-registering party does not object within 20 days, the order will be registered.
If the non-registering party does file a timely and proper objection with the local UIFSA agency, that agency will schedule a hearing and send both parties a notice detailing the date, time, and place of the hearing.