The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
The California Family Code sections 5700.101 through 5700.905 set forth the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in the United States first developed UIFSA in 1992 and then revised the act in 1996 and 2001, with additional amendments in 2008.
UIFSA creates a one-order system for establishing parentage and support. Once a court order is entered, UIFSA minimizes the jurisdictional ability of the court to modify the order. Such orders are then enforceable without court action (primarily through the income withholding order[i] system). By controlling a state’s jurisdiction in this way, each support order is easily enforced.
Family Code section 5700.609 provides that a party “seeking to modify, or to modify and enforce, a child-support order issued in another state shall register that order in this state… A petition for modification may be filed at the same time as a request for registration, or later.”[ii]
If Section 5700.613[iii] does not apply, upon petition a California court may modify a child-support order issued in another state which is registered in California if (after notice and hearing) the court finds the following:
“(1) the following requirements are met:
(A) neither the child, nor the obligee who is an individual, nor the obligor resides in the issuing state;
(B) a petitioner who is a nonresident of this state seeks modification; and
(C) the respondent is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this state; or
(2) this state is the residence of the child, or a party who is an individual is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this state, and all of the parties who are individuals have filed consents in a record in the issuing tribunal for a tribunal of this state to modify the support order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.”[iv]
“Modification of a registered child-support order is subject to the same requirements, procedures, and defenses that apply to the modification of an order issued by a [California court] and the order may be enforced and satisfied in the same manner.”[v] If a Court in California modifies a child-support order issued in another state, the California tribunal becomes the one having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction.[vi] In a modification proceeding, the law of the state that issued the initial controlling order governs the duration of the obligation of support.[vii]
California “may not modify any aspect of a child-support order that may not be modified under the law of the issuing state, including the duration of the obligation of support. If two or more tribunals have issued child-support orders for the same obligor and same child, the order that controls and must be so recognized under Section 5700.207 establishes the aspects of the support order which are nonmodifiable.”[viii]
Notwithstanding the other subsections of Family Code section 5700.611, a California court retains jurisdiction to modify an order issued by a tribunal of California if: “(1) one party resides in another state; and (2) the other party resides outside the United States.”[ix]
UIFSA deals with issues surrounding support. However, the United States employs the doctrine of divisible divorce and divisible family law jurisdiction. “Unresolved litigation on one aspect of the matrimonial relationship will not upset an adjudication of another aspect that has gone to final judgment.”[x] This means that, for example, while parties may settle the personal relationship/marital status issue of their divorce, they may continuing litigating the property issues thereafter.
With that in mind, it is important to note that UIFSA governs support issues without regard to whether jurisdiction is being exercised for other purposes. Under the doctrine of divisible divorce, the jurisdictional requirements (personal and subject matter) for each issue differ. For example, child custody jurisdiction will generally be controlled by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which we will discuss in detail in a future blog.