UIFSA: How North Carolina Gets Authority to Establish Child Support Over A Nonresident
Child support actions are in personam. What this means, is that in order for a North Carolina court to have the authority to order a child’s parent to pay support, it must have personal jurisdiction over him or her. When both parents live in North Carolina, personal jurisdiction is not an issue; however, what happens when the parent from whom child support is sought lives in another state? UIFSA, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, governs the establishment, modification, and enforcement of all child support orders, as well as the modification and enforcement of some alimony orders. N.C. Gen. Stat. Chapter 52C (2011).
Pursuant to UIFSA, a North Carolina Court will have the authority to assert personal jurisdiction over the defendant in a civil action to establish child support if he is domiciled in North Carolina. The defendant may claim that he is not a resident of North Carolina and thus the North Carolina courts should not have jurisdiction over him to establish child support; however, if the court finds that he is domiciled in North Carolina, then it can exercise personal jurisdiction. Domicile has been defined as “the place where [the party] intends to remain permanently, or for an indefinite length of time." Atassi v. Atassi, 117 N.C. App. 506, 451 S.E.2d 371 (1995).
North Carolina can assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a child support action regardless of whether he lives in North Carolina if the person is served with process within the state. In addition, if the person makes a general appearance in the case, meaning he submits relevant information to the court with respect to the merits of the case or files a response to the child support complaint that does not contest personal jurisdiction, then the North Carolina court can exercise jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant.
The defendant’s activities in North Carolina prior to his being served with the child support complaint can also be used to determine whether he is subject to personal jurisdiction in North Carolina. If the defendant is engaged in substantial activity within the state such as buying and selling real estate, obtaining a driver’s license, conducting business, or other substantial activities, then he is subject to North Carolina jurisdiction with respect to child support. North Carolina will also have jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant in a child support action if the child support claim arises out of a marital relationship that existed in North Carolina regardless of the fact that the defendant subsequently moved. In addition, if the defendant resided in North Carolina with the child or if he resided in North Carolina and paid prenatal expenses or support for the child, or if the child may have been conceived as a result of sexual intercourse by the defendant within North Carolina, then a North Carolina court has jurisdiction to establish child support. Finally, if the child lives in North Carolina as a result of the directives of the defendant or if the defendant asserted paternity in affidavit filed with the clerk, North Carolina will jurisdiction to establish child support in an action involving a defendant who may be a resident of another state.