Collecting Support Payments from an Out-of-State Parent or Spouse
April 15, 2015
In the event of a divorce, the prompt payment of child and spousal support can be essential to the financial well-being of a custodial parent or an ex-spouse. But if your co-parent or former spouse moves to another state, you may worry about getting support orders enforced against the payer spouse. Fortunately, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which has been adopted by every U.S. state, provides for that possibility. UIFSA states that, if a family court in one state issues an order for support but the payor parent or spouse moves to another state, the family court in that new state will enforce the support order.
Normally, if a person does not live in a state, that state’s courts do not have jurisdiction over him or her. For example, if Alice and Brian both live in Florida, and Alice wants to sue Brian over a matter that took place solely in Florida, she cannot sue in California. But Florida’s UIFSA gives a Florida state court jurisdiction over child or spousal support matters if one party or the child resides in Florida.
UIFSA provides that there can be only one support order, from one court only, called the controlling order. This makes it especially important to ensure that the order is enforceable by another state’s courts.
If a payor spouse or parent has moved to a different state, while the payee spouse or child has remained in Florida, and a Florida court has issued a spousal or child support order, there are two methods for collecting support payments.
First, an income withholding order may be sent to the payor’s new employer. The employer must treat that order as if it came from a court in the employer’s state. This means that if the employer does not comply with the order, the employer will face the same penalties as if it had disobeyed a court order from its own state.
Alternately, a support order or income withholding order may be registered in the payor’s new state of residence by forwarding appropriate documents to the court of the new state. If a support order is registered in a new state, it is enforceable as if it had been ordered by a court of the new state. Notice of the registration must be given to the payor spouse or parent. The payor may contest the validity or enforcement of the registered order by requesting a hearing no more than 20 days after receiving notice of the registration.
Parties may wish, at some point, to modify child or spousal support orders. For child support orders, as long as one party still lives in the state that issued the original order, the court of the original state is the only court that can modify the order. Additionally, if all parties agree to move jurisdiction to the new state, they may then file the child support agreement in the new state’s court. For spousal support orders, only the original court can modify the order, even if all parties involved have left the state.
If you are having trouble enforcing a child or spousal support order, a dedicated attorney can provide invaluable advice and assistance. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.