Out-of-State Child Support: How Does It Work? - Law and Daily Life
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Out-of-State Child Support: How Does It Work?

If your child's parent is out-of-state, it may seem like yet another hassle to get him or her to send you child support. Or maybe you're the one who owes child support to an out-of-state spouse.

Either way, child support agreements are indeed enforced out-of-state. Here are some of the legal mechanisms at work:

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Conceived in 1992, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) sets a national standard for each state to follow in enforcing child support orders or agreements, regardless of the state.

Under the UIFSA, only one state's order for child support can be enforced at a time, meaning that other states must agree to one state's rules on that child support order. This solely enforced child support order is called the "controlling order."

For example, if an order for child support issued in Texas is considered to be the "controlling order" under the UIFSA, courts in Michigan and California can be required to enforce that order once it is registered in with the out-of-state courts.

If you owe child support to a parent in another state, a properly registered controlling child support order can enable your home state to enforce the child support order by:

  • Garnishing your wages,
  • Seizing your property,
  • Suspending your business or professional licenses, or
  • Revoking your driver's license.

The out-of-state parent may have a difficult time modifying the child support order -- after changing jobs, for example -- because the state that issued the "controlling order" is often the only one who can change it.

Enforcing Out-of-State Child Support

So what do you need to get child support from an out-of-state parent?

First and foremost, there needs to be a child support order. If you are owed child support through a divorce or had a court involved in forcing your child's parent to pay child support, you should already have one of these orders. If not, the local child support agency in your state should be able to obtain one which can be enforced outside the state.

You may also need to be available to "attend" court hearings in the other state. This typically will not require a personal visit to the other state, as most family courts allow out-of-state parents to appear in court via telephone.

If you're still unclear on how to enforce your child support agreement or how being out-of-state affects your obligations, contact an experienced child support attorney near you.

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