The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, commonly referred to UIFSA, is a uniform statute enacted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in order to provide consistency and certainty when more than one state is involved in child support proceedings. At the instructions from Congress, the Act was created in order to avoid multiple conflicting child support orders from various states. In order avoid conflicting orders, UIFSA creates a series of rules and regulations providing an order of priority as to who has jurisdiction to issue and enforce child support orders. Once a state with the proper jurisdiction issues a child support order, that state keeps the exclusive right to modify the child support order, and no other state will have the right to modify the support order. The state that issues the support order loses the exclusive right to modify the order once all the parties and the child move out of the state. The issuing state will also lose the exclusive right to modify the support order if the parties agree in writing that another state, a state in which one of the parties and/or child lives, may serve to modify the support order.
Once it is determined that the issuing state no longer has exclusive rights to modify the order, UIFSA establishes the procedure to determine which state has the right to modify the support order. Under these provisions, a new state may only modify a support order issued by another state if: (1) if the child and the parents no longer reside in the state that issued the original order; and (2) the person seeking the modification does not reside in the new state.
To help clarify these provisions the following hypothetical is helpful. Massachusetts issues a child support order for the benefit of the parties’ child. After the support order is issued, the father and the child move to New Hampshire and the mother moves to Tennessee. Once the parties and the child move out of Massachusetts, Massachusetts no longer has the right to change its child support order, but does retain the right to enforce it. If the father wanted to modify the child support order, he may only do so by filing the State of Tennessee as UIFSA prevents him from filing in New Hampshire because he is a resident of the state. Similarly, if the mother, under this hypothetical, wants to file for a modification and the father has not already done so in Tennessee, she may only file for modification in the State of New Hampshire.
Similarly, under this hypothetical, if only the father and child moved to New Hampshire and the mother remained in Massachusetts, Massachusetts retains exclusive rights to modify the support order. However, all the parties may agree in writing that New Hampshire may serve as the proper court for modifying this child support order. In that case, Massachusetts loses its exclusive right to modify and New Hampshire then becomes the state with exclusive rights to modify support orders.
Navigating through UIFSA can be complex and there are often significant strategic considerations when deciding how to proceed. When faced with these issues, it is usually in the parent’s best interest to consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling interstate support issues to determine the best course of action. If you have any questions regarding a child support case involving one or more states, please contact one of the attorneys at Hamblett & Kerrigan for a consultation.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.