America is a mobile society, so it should come as no surprise that the federal government has implemented certain rules that apply when one or both parents leave the state where a child support order has been entered. The onus often falls on the custodial parent to implement these rules so they can continue to collect support, but state services stand by, ready to assist.
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
The Uniform Law Conference created the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in 1992 to fine tune previous legislation that attempted to deal with the problem of parents moving to separate states. The UIFSA was adopted by all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in 1996. It’s been tweaked and amended over the years, but as of 2014, all states have some version of the law on their books and the core provisions of the UIFSA remain largely the same in all jurisdictions. States must work with each other to enforce and modify child support orders, and they’re obligated to provide parents with UIFSA coordinators to assist with transferring their cases to new jurisdictions. This isn’t always necessary, however. Depending on which parent moves, it’s possible that nothing needs to be changed.
When the Noncustodial Parent Moves
If your ex moves but you and your children remain in the state where your support order was issued, you don’t have to transfer it. Your state retains what’s called “continuing exclusive jurisdiction.” If your ex continues to make his support payments, nothing changes. If you need to enforce the order because he stops paying, your state must have “long-arm” jurisdiction before it can act. This basically means that he lived with your children there at some point in time, and that you and your children continue to live there. If your state doesn’t have long-arm jurisdiction for some reason, you would have to ask your ex’s new state to help you collect child support under the terms of your order. Your state’s child support services might act on its own to arrange this, or UIFSA coordinator can help you do so. You’re not actually transferring the case – you’re just giving another state permission to act on your state’s order. This involves registering the order with the government in your ex’s jurisdiction. The new state can’t modify the order’s terms, however.
When the Custodial Parent Moves
If you move, you may want to transfer the case, although if your ex remains in the state where the court entered your order, it may be easiest just to leave it there. Typically, the state where the noncustodial parent is living has greater and easier resources to collect support from him if he falls behind with payments. You can register your order in your new state if you want to, but all you’ll achieve is giving your new state authorization to collect support for you – which your old state is already authorized to do.
Modifying the Order
If both you and your ex move out of the state where your order was issued, the situation becomes more complicated. As long as either parent or children continue to live there, only that state has the right to modify the order; if everyone moves, your old state no longer has jurisdiction. You’d have to register the order in your new location if you want to seek modification, but your ex has the right to do this as well. Additional UIFSA terms kick in to prevent parents from “forum-shopping” for the best jurisdiction in which to request a support modification – deliberately moving to a state where the child support order would be reduced, for example. You would have to file a petition to register the order and seek modification in your ex’s state if you want to do more than enforce the order. If both parents file petitions to modify support, jurisdiction defaults to the state where your children have lived for the last six months. If they haven’t lived in your new location that long, the state with jurisdiction is the one where either you or your ex filed first.