In today's mobile society, it isn't uncommon for a parent to move away from the state where his child support obligation was initially established. When this happens, the payor must continue to comply with existing court orders, because moving out of state doesn't invalidate a child support order. States work together to enforce and modify support orders that other jurisdictions issue.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) covers the establishment, enforcement and modification of family support orders across state lines. A version of this act can be found in each state's family law code. Before the advent of the UIFSA, numerous state courts had the power to modify an order, which lead to differences in child support obligations for the same set of parents in different states. The UIFSA made it so that only one valid child support order can exist at any given time. The act also streamlined the interstate collection process, which requires employers to honor wage-withholding orders that other states have issued.
"Jurisdiction" refers to the power that a court has to decide an issue or the authority that it has to exercise power over an individual. The child's home state has the authority to enter an initial support order. Courts can obtain jurisdiction over a nonresident parent via personal service within the state or if the parent files a responsive document, which constitutes a general appearance. Jurisdiction can also be established if the parent lived with the child in the state or the child lives in the state because of something the parent did, the parent claimed parentage in the state or if the parent paid child support or prenatal expenses while residing in the state.
Multiple Cases in Different States
If child support cases are going in multiple states at the same time, the child's home state will have priority. After establishing support, the issuing state -- the one that entered the first support order -- retains jurisdiction over the case until it somehow loses jurisdiction to another state. This can happen if all the parties agree -- or if the parties or the child all move out of state. Under the UIFSA, a child support case becomes a ball that states hand off to each other, as the parties move around and jurisdiction changes.
The UIFSA also governs who can modify -- change -- a child support order. Jurisdiction to modify a support order generally remains with the issuing state. Another state can modify the order, if the issuing state has lost jurisdiction by the agreement of the parties or if the parties and the child have all moved.
UIFSA In Practice
A child support order will remain in the issuing state, unless someone takes the step of registering it in a different place. While a recipient parent may wish to keep the case in the original issuing state, compelling reasons may exist to move the order across state lines for enforcement purposes. Each state has a procedure in its enacted version of the UIFSA to register an order for enforcement, modification, or both.