When a divorced parent takes a child to live out of the divorcing state, questions may arise about modification and enforcement of orders for child support or alimony. With fifty states, U.S. territories, and foreign countries added to the mix, these questions require some uniformity for resolution. There exists a Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“UIFSA") in several different formats which have been adopted in the United States. For example, 24 jurisdictions rely upon the 1996 version of UIFSA, 18 jurisdictions have adopted the 2001 version and 9 have adopted the 2008 version. Although the UIFSA has been amended and tweaked several time, it still has certain uniform provisions. An experienced family lawyer where you are now living can tell you about the version in force where you currently live and how it affects you.

You should also be aware that just because the parents nor the child live in the state that issued the original support order does not mean that state loses its jurisdicition over the order. More often than not, that state will retain the exclusive jurisdiction to modify its order. Other states cannot touch it to modify it.

Not only does UIFSA apply to the different states in the U.S. it may also apply to enforcement of support orders of foreign countries which recognize and enforce support orders from the United States. Texas, for example, will enforce a child support order and spousal alimony order from the United Kingdom if suit is brought under the UIFSA against a resident of the State of Texas. Ask an experienced family lawyer in the jurisdiction where you live if a foreign country’s support order is enforceable in your jurisdiction. It may or may not be.

UIFSA applies only to proceedings for the enforcement of support of a child or spouse of the support obligor. It does not apply to proceedings for any other type of support. It does not allow for the modification of a child support order which has been sent to the enforcing state.

The UIFSA does not allow visitation issues to be raised in the support proceedings. It has a limited specific purpose.

When suit is brought under the UIFSA, the procedures and law of the place where the suit is brought applies. This can be beneficial or not, depending on the particular circumstances.

If you are concerned about enforcing a support order from another state against your ex, the first thing to do is get a “certified" copy of the support order from the clerk of the court that entered the original order. Take that order to an experienced family law attorney. The attorney will “register" the foreign support order in the jurisdiction where the obligor lives. He will prepare the necessary papers including a sworn statement for registration and send the necessary papework to the appropriate clerk for filing. Registration is not a complicated procedure but it is better to let an attorney do it. Remember, doing something the first time yourself is always harder than it needs to be.

UIFSA allows you to file your enforcement proceeding directly in the court or tribunal of the state where you want the order enforced, i.e. where you can find the obligor. You do not have to go through the state court which created or issued the order as a prerequisite.

UIFSA specifically authorizes the use of a private attorney to enforce the support obligation. You do not have to rely on the state IV-D Agency (in Texas, the Office of the Attorney General) to enforce the order for you. The act allows for recovery of expenses and attorney’s fees which appeals to private attorneys who like to be paid for their work.

Once registered, the foreign order is enforceable in the same manner as a support order issued by the state where it was registered. This includes orders for income withholding. Remember, the enforcing state shall recognize and enforce but may not modify the support order.

When courts from two different states have a common order, the lawyers always want to know which state’s law applies to the order. The UIFSA provides an answer. Generally speaking, the law of the issuing state governs:

  1. The nature, extent, amount, and duration of current payments under a registered support order;

  2. The computeation and payment of arrearages and accrual of interest on arrearages under the support order; and

  3. The existence and satisfaction of other obligations under the support order.

The question of whether or not the enforcement action is barred by limitations is easliy answered by using the longer statute of limitations, whether from the enforcing or issuing state.

One thing to note, the responding (enforcing) tribunal shall apply the procedures and remedies of the responding state to enforce the collection of arrearages and interest. This can be very important because not all states allow the same types of remedies to collect support. For instance, some things, such as retirement plans, IRAs, and othe state-exempt property, may not be subject to collection for unpaid support obligations in the enforcing state. Again, check with your lawyer.

There is a remedy to collect child support and spousal support available in this mobile society. Be aware of it.