What if claiming child support involves another state?

Another potential avenue for relief with child support arrearages exists under the reciprocal enforcement of support statutes among the various states. North Carolina has enacted a statutory remedy to provide for the interstate enforcement of child support obligations, called the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, Chapter 52C of the North Carolina General Statutes (“UIFSA”).

UIFSA, which went into effect in North Carolina as of January 1, 1996, has been enacted in about twenty-six states. A pending bill in Congress would require its enactment in all the states. UIFSA, like its predecessor (“URESA” or the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act), provides for the establishment, enforcement and modification of out-of-state support orders. Unlike URESA, a custodial parent (the “obligee”) can establish a support order in her own home state rather than just in the state where the person owing the duty of support resides.

Except for extradition proceedings under these Acts, the interstate actions are civil in nature and not criminal. One of the principal problems with the prior Act was that it permitted multiple, inconsistent child support orders affecting one family to co-exist in different states; and it also permitted the state where the obligor lived to modify an order issued in another state. Under UIFSA, these problems will be curtailed. UIFSA gives priority to one order. It requires the recognition and enforcement of that primary order; and it prohibits other states from modifying an existing primary order in situations where the issuing state continues to have exclusive jurisdiction.

In child support cases, a court retains continuing exclusive jurisdiction pursuant to UIFSA over its support order as long as that state remains the residence of the obligor, the obligee or the child, or until each party files written consent with the issuing state authorizing the court of another state to assume continuing exclusive jurisdiction in that other state. Where there may already be more than one child support order, and where the states each have exclusive jurisdiction by reason of a party’s residence, then the court presiding over a UIFSA proceeding is required to recognize the support order that was issued by the court in the child’s current home state.

Where none of the courts issuing co-existing orders has exclusive jurisdiction, UIFSA does not require recognition of any of the prior orders except with respect to unpaid vested support arrearages. A North Carolina court is required to follow the UIFSA rules even in cases in which the other state has not yet adopted the new Act. The paperwork needed for initiating a URESA/UIFSA action must substantially conform with the pleadings approved by Congress for IV-D cases. The court must have personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant in order to make valid rulings with regard to child support. UIFSA creates a number of grounds for so-called “long arm” jurisdiction over a non-resident.

Provided one of these grounds applies, and provided the exercise of jurisdiction over the defendant is consistent with constitutional due process, the UIFSA child support matter may proceed. North Carolina courts can exercise personal jurisdiction over non-residents pursuant to UIFSA if any of the following applies:

  1. the non-resident was personally served with process in North Carolina;
  2. 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;
  3. the non-resident resided at one time in North Carolina with the child;
  4. the non-resident resided here at one time and provided prenatal expenses or support for the child;
  5. the child resides here as a result of acts or directives of the non-resident defendant;
  6. 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;
  7. the non-resident has asserted paternity in the paternity registry maintained in this state; or
  8. there is some other basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction consistent with constitutional principles.