Child or spousal support matters, while already complicated, become even more complex when the two parents live in different states. In years past, even determining which court had jurisdiction to hear a support dispute was a challenge, and ensuring that court orders were obeyed was far from consistent.

In 1992, an organization known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) began taking steps to address these challenges, and the resulting legislation – the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) – has become law in all 50 states. UIFSA sets definite guidelines for determining jurisdiction, creates mechanisms for nationwide enforcement of family support orders, and generally ensures that parents cannot escape making required payments by crossing state lines.

In this article, we’ll examine UIFSA and how it works to protect children and families.

 History of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) is an American nonprofit organization that helps ensure consistency in state laws in areas where discrepancies between states’ laws can pose enforcement challenges. The Conference drafts and presents “model acts,” examples of specific laws that can be used as the basis for a single, unified law to be passed in all 50 individual states.

The NCCUSL released its first version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in 1992, followed by revisions in 1996, 2001, and 2008. As part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became federal law in 1996, all states were required to adopt the UIFSA before 1998 to prevent the loss of some federal funds.

Since then, every US state has adopted either the 1996, 2001, or 2008 version of the law.

What Does the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act Do?

A few different aspects of the UIFSA impact how states handle family support issues that cross state lines. The three main areas of focus are determining jurisdiction for proceedings, requiring states to recognize orders issued in other states, and establishing mechanisms for enforcing custody orders across state lines.

Determining Jurisdiction

In general, the UIFSA establishes that the state in which a support order was issued retains “continuing exclusive jurisdiction” over the matter. No matter where the parties may relocate within the US, the original court will address any issues regarding the child or spousal support order, including modifications and other proceedings.

If child support issues only arise after the parents have settled in different states, UIFSA dictates that the state courts in the child’s home state will have jurisdiction over the matter.

Requiring Recognition of Other States’ Orders

This provision of the UIFSA requires that all states defer to child support and spousal support orders issued by another state. This requirement ensures that a parent cannot avoid making support payments or meeting other obligations by relocating to a state with different support enforcement laws.

Establishing Mechanisms of Enforcement

Enforcing a court order across state lines can be difficult, as state laws can vary widely. UIFSA provides for uniform enforcement of support orders across the entire US.

For instance, if a parent who owes a regular child support payment relocates to a new state and stops making their support payments, the other parent can have a court order issued to garnish the delinquent parent’s wages. Or, if an individual is failing to make spousal support payments, the other party may submit a UIFSA petition to have the court in the delinquent party’s jurisdiction impose penalties to force compliance.

Who Is Impacted by UIFSA?

Overall, the central legal concept addressed by UIFSA is that of jurisdiction; the Act creates a framework allowing custodial parents and spousal support recipients to be granted jurisdiction in a local court rather than having to make filings and arguments in a different state. There are eight conditions under which a petitioner in Georgia may be granted jurisdiction through UIFSA:

  • The respondent is served process within Georgia.
  • The respondent submits to the jurisdiction of Georgia by appearing in a Georgia court.
  • The respondent ever lived in Georgia with the child or spouse.
  • The respondent lived in Georgia and provided support for the child before its birth.
  • The child or spouse lives in Georgia as a result of the actions of the respondent.
  • The child was conceived or could have been conceived within the state of Georgia.
  • The respondent obtained paternity of the child in Georgia.
  • There is any other basis in Georgia or federal law for the petitioner to claim jurisdiction.

How Can Parents Get Help Through UIFSA?

If you are involved in a custody or child support matter that crosses state lines and need help with settling a dispute, receiving child support payments, or getting the other parent to meet other obligations spelled out in your custody order, the UIFSA in Georgia and the other parent’s state of residence may be able to help.

In Georgia, as in other states, UIFSA petitions are handled through a Central Registry office. The Georgia Central Registry is managed by the state’s Division of Child Support Services.

Managing a UIFSA petition can be a complicated process, with dozens of specific forms and protocols that must be completed in order to obtain a successful outcome. While it is possible to navigate a UIFSA petition by oneself, it’s always advisable to have a skilled family attorney on your side to help you navigate the matter.

Need Help Receiving Support Payments Across State Lines? We Can Help: Call EMC Family Law Today!

If you are owed child or spousal support from an individual who is now living outside of Georgia, you may be entitled to certain rights and protections under UIFSA. Contact a legal team that understands how UIFSA can work for you. Give us a call and let us guide you through your next steps: 770-225-7000

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