Exclusive Jurisdiction of Original State Under UIFSA
Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), there is only one controlling support order even when multiple states are involved in enforcing it. Once a support order is established, the issuing state has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify that order. The issuing state retains exclusive jurisdiction to modify, upon proper petition, so long as one of the individual parties or the child continue to reside in that state. Modification jurisdiction may be sought in child support cases only when all individual parties and the child have left the issuing state or when the parties have agreed in writing for another state to exercise jurisdiction.
As long as either of the individual parties or the child resides in the state that entered the original order, that state retains exclusive jurisdiction to modify its order, upon proper petition. In such circumstances, even though a sister state’s order has been registered for enforcement, the registering state is precluded from modifying it.
Where the individual parties and the child have left the issuing state, or if the individual parties agree in writing to take the case to another state, UIFSA sets out a methodology for registering the support order in another state for purposes of modification. While either the obligor or obligee may seek a modification of the order, modification must be sought in the jurisdiction of the opposing party.
UIFSA places the burden to litigate in a distant forum on the party who wishes to change a perfectly valid, enforceable order. UIFSA’s non-residency requirement avoids the potential of a second round of challenges to a support order occasioned by the use of long-arm jurisdictional provisions.
A party seeking modification is subjected to the procedural and substantive laws of the opponent’s state. Thus, an obligor who seeks to modify an existing support order when both parties and the child have left the issuing state must register the existing order for modification in the state with personal jurisdiction over the obligee. The registering state then will apply its own child support guidelines to the recalculations of the obligation and its own rules of modification, irrespective of the standard used to set the original order. The responding state cannot modify any provision of the order not subject to modification in the issuing state. Nor can it modify the duration of the support obligation.
The petition for modification may be filed simultaneously with an enforcement registration or sometime thereafter, if the qualifying conditions are met. The pleading must specify the grounds for modification. The party obtaining the modification must, within 30 days unless the state selects another time frame, file a certified copy of the modified order with the issuing tribunal that had continuing, exclusive jurisdiction and in each tribunal where the earlier order has been registered. The state modifying the order becomes the state of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.
Because, under UIFSA, the ”tribunal” may be either a court or an administrative agency, it is possible that an order established by a court may be subsequently modified by an administrative agency of another jurisdiction lawfully exercising jurisdiction under UIFSA’s modification provisions.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.