Colorado family courts work on the principle that all decisions made are in the best interests of the child, including child support orders. Typically, the courts decide and enforce matters of child support within the state, but what happens when a parent with a child support order moves out of the jurisdiction and into another state, muddying the court’s ability to enforce payments?
Whether the parent moves due to a legitimate work opportunity, to fulfill family obligations, or they move with the intention of evading child support orders, the court has a process in place to work across state lines to ensure a parent lives up to the court’s expectation that they continue to provide for their children. To learn more, consider speaking with an experienced Denver child support attorney.
What is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act?
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) enables legal action to enforce child support obligations even when a paying parent moves to another state. The act addresses the need for state child support agencies to work together by ensuring the following:
- That the county child support office follows the laws and procedures of the other state when collecting child support
- That they rely on the other state’s support staff when addressing the case
- That they keep up communication with the other state when enforcing a case
UIFSA provides pathways for a parent who receives child support to continue to collect support payments even when the paying parent is outside of the jurisdiction. Under this rule, a state can issue contempt orders as well as use additional means of establishing or enforcing child support orders, such as wage garnishment, late fees, and interest payments, as long as the state establishes personal jurisdiction over the parent.
Understanding Personal Jurisdiction for Out-of-State Support Orders
“Jurisdiction” refers to a court’s authority over residents of a specific region. In order to legally enforce child support orders over a resident of another state, the Colorado court must establish jurisdiction over the non-resident.
The UIFSA act provides a process for states to establish the necessary personal jurisdiction required to enforce child support orders. To establish jurisdiction for the parent who owes support, states must show one of the following:
- That they served a summons to the parent under the child support order
- That the parent previously lived in the state where the child resides and provided support there
- That the parent previously filed a response to a child support order in the original state
Once a state establishes one of the above conditions for personal jurisdiction, it can begin child support enforcement actions against a resident of that state. The court can also issue orders against the non-resident parent including modifying child support orders and enforcing payment of back child support, or arrears.
The UIFSA protects children who live in one state while their child support-paying parent resides in another by giving the courts in the original jurisdiction of the case the power to continue collecting and enforcing payment.
UIFSA Helps to Facilitate the Establishment and Enforcement of Child Support for Non-Residents
Once a state establishes personal jurisdiction over the support-paying parent through the framework provided in the UIFSA, they may enter orders for the following:
- Establishing child support for a non-resident
- Recovering child support amounts that are in arrears
- Requiring a parent to provide medical benefits to a child
- Modifying child support
Under the UIFSA rules for personal jurisdiction, the state establishes that it holds the legal authority to make rulings that impact a person residing in another state.
Enforcing Child Support When the Paying Parent Moves to a Different State
When a child support payor locates to a new state and meets the above requirements, Colorado issues a withholding order to the new state with important details about the case including:
- The amount and frequency of the child support payments in the order
- Any amount in arrears to be paid
- Important health insurance provisions for children
In cases of unmarried parents, a child support order isn’t enforceable unless a paternity test establishes paternity. Typically, court officials in Colorado will work with state officials in the other state to perform paternity testing and establish a child support order that’s enforceable in the new state.
All 50 states offer means of inter-state child support enforcement not only to protect the children of divorced parents but also because it protects the state itself against potential financial losses. For instance, if a custodial parent residing in a state doesn’t receive their court-ordered child support payments, they are more likely to require benefits provided by the state such as Medicaid and food stamps.
Under UIFSA rules, the original ruling court in the case maintains continuing exclusive jurisdiction not only over matters related to child support and insurance but also for modification and enforcement of spousal support orders unless both parents consent to a change in court to the new state and register the order, or if the spouse receiving the support moves to a new state and registers the order in a new jurisdiction.
Colorado Family Courts and UIFSA
The Colorado courts work under UIFSA guidelines to help Colorado residents secure their child’s support payments from an out-of-state parent. The court also works with other states to establish personal jurisdiction over Colorado residents who have existing support orders outside of Colorado to ensure that children in other states gain the support they need.