Enforcing Interstate Child Support

The long arm of the law is now able to reach across state boundaries to enforce support orders through garnishment of wages or having the recalcitrant parent’s drivers or professional licenses revoked, thanks to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

Following the lead of 25 other states, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation adopting UIFSA as Chapter 52C of the General Statutes, effective January 1, 1996. UIFSA replaces The Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA), enacted in the 1950s. Though it represented the first comprehensive attempt to deal with the problem of interstate support enforcement, over the years it was found to be ineffective, cumbersome and time-consuming. In 1989 alone, interstate child support cases made up approximately 30 percent of all child support cases in the United States, and an estimated 2.5 million non-custodial parents, mostly fathers, were nonresidents of the states in which their children lived. At the time, children were almost twice as likely not to receive support from non-custodial parents in interstate situations, as in cases where the non-custodial parent and children live in the same state. In addition, parents in interstate child support cases paid, on average, only 60 percent of the child support that they have been ordered to pay.

With UIFSA came sweeping changes in child support enforcement laws, making it much easier for a spouse dependent upon child support to enforce support orders by creating real-life consequences for dead-beat dads and moms. In some respects, UIFSA is quite similar to URESA. For example, UIFSA also retains much of the terminology used by URESA, including the terms “initiating” and “responding state.”

However, the two acts differ in important ways:

  • Under the old law it was extremely difficult and expensive for non-custodial parents to contest modification requests, many of which were brought in states located hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their homes. In the future, all such actions will be brought in the state where the custodial parent resides.
  • UIFSA also makes it easier to garnish wages in another state. The garnishment order can now be obtained in the custodial parent’s home state and mailed directly to the non-custodial parent’s employer in another state.
  • Additionally, parents who do not pay child support orders will be subject to having driver’s licenses or professional licenses. Even passports can be revoked for failure to pay child support orders. A list of child support delinquencies will be sent to the various licensing boards and these boards will, in turn, send out notices to recalcitrant parents indicating that they may be subject to license suspension or revocation unless they bring their payments up-to-date.

In North Carolina, courts can exercise personal jurisdiction over non-residents pursuant to UIFSA if any of the following applies:

  • the non-resident was personally served with process in North Carolina
  • the non-resident submits to jurisdiction here by consent, a general appearance, or filing a responsive pleading waiving the issue of lack of personal jurisdiction
  • the non-resident resided at one time in North Carolina with the child
  • the non-resident resided here at one time and provided prenatal expenses or support for the child
  • the child resides here as a result of acts or directives of the non-resident defendant
  • the non-resident engaged in an act of sexual intercourse in North Carolina with the child’s other parent, and the child may have been conceived as a result of that act
  • the non-resident has asserted paternity in the paternity registry maintained in this state
  • there is some other basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction consistent with constitutional principles

If you would like more information onenforcing child support through interstate channels, or would like to schedule a consultation regarding your child support issues, contact us.

 

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