Many times, parents will seek the assistance of a Kansas family law attorney for help with enforcing or modifying (changing) a child support order issued by another state. Court orders from states outside of Kansas are referred to as “foreign judgments.” Unfortunately, enforcement and/or modification of a foreign judgment for child support is not as simple or convenient as enforcing and/or modifying in-state judgments. Jurisdiction is the authority to make decisions about a certain matter or involving specific people. Because child support is not a federalized area of law, the rules under which support orders are made vary by state. If you are not a lawyer, then for the most part, you can get through life assuming that a district court judge in Kansas has jurisdiction limited to Kansas cases and involving Kansas residents.However, if you have an interstate child support issue, you will find it is actually more complicated than that. In this country, families make interstate moves quite frequently after child support orders are entered, so there has to be some way for them to make changes and/or get help enforcing orders after such a move. For obvious reasons, the state in which the child resides is the most motivated state to enforce child support orders benefiting the child, and no one wants to travel cross-country to sit in a courtroom and discuss child support. Any Kansas family law attorney will tell you that modifications of child support and custody orders are not only possible, but expected, these days; everyone’s circumstances change over time. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) was created precisely for these reasons. Whenever more than one state becomes involved in a child support case, whether for issuance, enforcement, or modification of an order, the parties and the Court must look to UIFSA for instructions on how/where to proceed. UIFSA tells us which court(s) have jurisdiction and sets out which state’s child support law(s) will apply. Under the United States Constitution, all state courts must give full faith and credit to the valid decisions made by other state courts. Kansas, as well as many other states, thus requires individuals to register their foreign judgment with the Kansas district court of their home county, before asking that court to enforce or modify the order. After registration, UIFSA provides several enforcement tools that would not otherwise be available to a Kansas parent trying to enforce an out-of-state order, and also allows Kansas Child Support Enforcement to become involved. Even without modifying the order, both parties can enforce the order wherever it is properly registered. The state in which the first child support order was entered does not automatically lose its authority to make changes to the order when some of the people involved move to a different state. Instead, the issuing state will retain “continuing exclusive jurisdiction,” and no other state’s laws can be applied to modify the child support order. Only after the issuing state has lost its continuing exclusive jurisdiction, according to a different section of UIFSA, can a different state assume authority to change the order. The loss of continuing exclusive jurisdiction does not mean that any State can assume modification jurisdiction; UIFSA allows only states with appropriate jurisdiction to make modifications to the child support order. Meanwhile, the issuing state maintains the authority to enforce its own orders until those orders are modified by another state. The jurisdictional provisions of UIFSA can be very difficult to navigate on your own. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to change a child support order that was issued in another state, you will save yourself a lot of time, money, and frustration by first consulting a Kansas family law attorney. by Beth Crosland, J.D.
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