Modifying an Out of State Child Support Order

When a court issues an out of state child support order, it is usually meant to last for a long time.  Most child support orders last until your child has reached adulthood because of their age, being emancipated, or getting married.  Surprisingly, some orders last even longer than that.

Throughout the course of your life, you may change jobs, lose jobs, or move to another state or country.  Some of these things can make following a child support order hard or impossible.  When that happens, you may have to ask the court to take another look at the order and make changes.

As parents, when one of you moves out of the state that issued the original order, there are a lot of questions to think about.  If your child’s father has moved out of state, you’ve both moved to the same state or have both moved to different states – there is a lot going on here.  In any of these cases, you’re going to wonder which court or which state has the ability to change the order.  Another question you might have is whether or not you will have to get a new child support order every time you move.

To answer questions you have regarding the modification of an out of state child support order, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in the U.S. has created the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act – Out of State Child Support

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or UIFSA, has been adopted by every state in the country along with the District of Columbia.  This law takes care of addressing problems with spousal and child support when either you or your ex moves out of state.  When dealing with custody issues, a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) applies.

The UIFSA only applies when there is more than one state involved in ordering, enforcing, or modifying child support orders.  Under this law, a child support order from Washington can be enforced in any other state in the country.

The basic idea behind the law is that there should only be one order at a time to prevent confusion from having different orders in different states.  When a court in Alabama issues a child support order, each state must accept that order as valid.  If the order from Alabama is registered in Indiana, then a court in Indiana can enforce it.

One trait of UIFSA is that unless there are certain conditions that are met, the court that issued the order is the only court that can change the order.  The court that has issued the original order loses jurisdiction if you and the other parent agree that a different court should govern the case or if neither of you live in the state where the order was issued.

If you want to modify a child support order in a different state other than where it was originally issued, you must first register the order.  The state must have jurisdiction to modify the order.  If the court has jurisdiction and the order is registered, you can file a petition to modify the order.

Step One: Registering a Judgment

Before any court in Alabama can modify an out of state child support order, the order must be registered in Alabama.  Before the order can be registered, there is a list of things that you must provide the court:

  1. Letter of Transmittal: This letter asks the court to register and enforce the judgment.
  2. Two Copies of the Order: You must give the court two copies of the order that you wish for it to register, one of which has to be certified. You can obtain a certified copy from the court that issued the original order, and it must be verified by the clerk of that court to be accurate.
  3. Statement Concerning Arrearage: This is a statement saying whether or not the other parent is behind on child support payments and an amount that they are behind (if any). This can be a sworn statement by you if you’re trying to register the judgment or a certified statement from the custodian of records.
  4. Obligor’s Information: This is information about the parent who has been ordered to pay child support. You must give the court his or her name, along with their address, social security number, their employer’s name and address, their sources of income, and a description of any property they own in the state of Alabama.
  5. Obligee’s Information: If you are supposed to receive child support, then you are the obligee. You must provide the court with your name and address.  If your health or safety is in danger, there is a way to keep this information secret.

If you have more than one out of state child support order, you have to give the court a copy of every order and the state where the order is in effect right now.

Once the court has all of the information it needs, it will file the order as a judgment from another state.  This means that Alabama will recognize the order, but it won’t be an Alabama order; it will still be an order from the originating state.  However, once the order is registered in Alabama, an Alabama court has the ability to enforce the order just as if it came from Alabama originally.

Step Two: Modifying the Child Support Order

Just because the order is registered in Alabama, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the court has the power to change the order.  The Alabama court must have jurisdiction, or the power, to change the child support order.  Under UIFSA, there are three ways for the Alabama court to get jurisdiction to modify the order.

  1. If both you and the other parent lives in Alabama and the child does not live in the state that issued the original order, Alabama has jurisdiction.
  2. If neither parent nor the child lives in the state that issued the original order, the parent trying to change the order is not an Alabama resident, and the respondent (parent that isn’t trying to change the order) is subject to personal jurisdiction in Alabama, Alabama has jurisdiction.
  3. If the child lives in Alabama or either parent is subject to personal jurisdiction in Alabama, and both parents filed consents in a record in the state that issued the order for Alabama to modify and assume jurisdiction, Alabama has jurisdiction.

If one of the above conditions is met, Alabama has the power to modify the child support order.

In order to change the out of state child support order, the parent trying to change the order must file a petition to modify with the court.  This can be done at the same time that the order is registered or at any time after it is registered.

There are limitations on what an Alabama court can change on an out of state child support order.  If a change cannot be made under the law of the original state, an Alabama court cannot make it, even if it would be allowed under the law in Alabama.  Be aware that the law of the original issuing state also determines the duration of support.  If the child becomes an adult at age 18 in the original state, the child support obligation ends when the child reaches that age, despite the age of majority being 19 in Alabama.  If the obligation has been fulfilled, an Alabama court cannot impose a new obligation to pay.

Out of State Child Support: Practical Points in Summary

Every state along with the District of Columbia has adopted UIFSA.

There can only be one out of state child support order in effect at a time.

An order for child support can be registered and enforced in any appropriate state, but only one state at a time has the power to issue or modify an order.

Registering an order doesn’t mean that the court has the power to change the order, but an order must be registered before the court can change it.

If either parent or the child live in the state that issued the original order, that state is the only state that can modify the order unless both parties consent to a different jurisdiction.

Because of the way UIFSA is written, if both of the parents do not agree to a change in child support, the parent seeking the change can’t file for a modification in his or her own state of residence unless the other parent also lives in that state.  It is easiest for the person looking to change the order to file for the modification in the state where the other parent lives.

Our Child Support Lawyers Can Help

We have child support lawyers in Madison County and Jefferson County, with offices conveniently located in Huntsville and Birmingham, Alabama. You don’t have to physically meet at our office for our attorneys to assist with your child support issue. For more information, please contact our office at (256) 859-7277. We can help you figure out your out of state child support issues.