How to Collect Child Support in Another State

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Need to collect child support in another state? This is known as 'interstate child support.' It's an issue that may come up if you or your ex relocates to another state and either of you later seeks to establish or modify a child support order. For example:

  • Imagine having agreed to a child support order established by the state of California. Then your ex moves to Illinois and asks for a child support modification. Which state's child support laws should be applied?
  • Say your original child support order was established in Kentucky, and you later move your kids to Alabama. Which state's rules should be followed, the state where the order originated, or the state where the children now live?

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) was established to answer these types of child support questions. 

Interstate Child Support & the UIFSA

Parents who need to collect interstate child support are protected under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). Adopted by all 50 U.S. states, the law was established to help families resolve interstate child support issues fairly. Often, this requires the courts to merge multiple support orders into one, enforceable order.

Interstate Child Support Terms You Need to Know

First, it's important to understanding the terminology that applies to your case, including:

  • Originating State: Generally, the state that originally issued the child support order will remain the state with "continuing jurisdiction" as long as both parents to continue to reside there or agree to transfer the child support order to another state.
  • Current Residency: If a child support obligor (the parent who owes child support) moves or transfers the child support case, UIFSA gives the "originating state" the power to send a withholding notice, directly to that new state. The withholding order will specify the duration of child support along with the amount and the frequency, as well as any amount to be paid in arrears, health insurance provisions, or other payment specifications.

In other words, the state that issued the original order retains the legal right to uphold that order even if the parent paying child support moves out of state.

Modification of an Existing Child Support Order

Only the state with "continuing jurisdiction" has the power to modify a child support order. However, there is one exception: if both parents move to a new jurisdiction, then the new state has the power to modify the child support order. If the parents move to two different states, the party seeking a modification should file for a modification in the new state.

Paternity & Interstate Child Support

Paternity must be established prior to the enforcement of a new child support order. If paternity has yet to be established, the parent should order a paternity test to determine whether or not child support is required. Generally speaking, courts will not hold someone responsible for child support unless he or she is biologically related to the child. (The only exception here is a rare situation known as "the presumption of paternity," where a man can be held financially responsible for a child conceived while he was married to the mother, whether that child is biologically his or not.)

It can be more difficult to prove paternity after either parent relocates to another state, but it is not impossible. If you wish to file for child support, you should do so in the state where you and your child currently reside. Officials in your state will work with the child support agency in the state where your ex resides to perform paternity testing and establish an enforceable child support order.

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