I have child support obligations in four states. Which one has jurisdiction?

Attorney Jason HopperQuestion:

I currently have child support obligations, which includes paying off child support arrears, in four states due to multiple marriages. With each state taking its share of my paycheck, I would have less than $50 every two weeks to survive on. I’m committed to paying what I owe, but with four states coming at me at once it is impossible.

What steps are necessary to straighten out my child support obligations which have had courts from four states taking action to either potentially or actually set up support obligations?

 

Answer:

I will preface my answer with the fact that I am licensed to practice law in the State of Indiana.  Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of the states of Michigan, Ohio, or Kentucky where your child support obligations are.  Cordell & Cordell does have offices nationwide, and I would encourage you to contact an attorney for specific legal advice.

Your questions may largely be answered by looking at the federal Uniform Interstate Family Support Act or “UIFSA,” which has been adopted by all states in the United States of America. Whenever more than one state is involved in the establishing, enforcing or modifying a child or spousal support order, the UIFSA is used to determine the jurisdiction and power of the courts in the different states.

The UIFSA sets up rules which require every state to defer to the support order entered by the court where the order was originally entered.  The court and state which originally enters an order is said to hold continuing exclusive jurisdiction over subsequent modifications.  Thus, in your case, the State of Kentucky can only enforce the orders which were issued by the out of state tribunal, but cannot modify the orders of the out of state tribunal unless the State of Kentucky has continuing exclusive jurisdiction over matters.

If your former spouse and child from the proceedings in Michigan still reside in Michigan, then the issuing court in Michigan would still have exclusive jurisdiction over modifications to that support obligation.

If Michigan laws are similar to Indiana’s, the fact that you have subsequently born children, and subsequently issued support obligations and potentially subsequently changed income figures, could all entitle you to a modification of your support obligation in Michigan.

Whichever court and state issued the second support obligation, will have continuing exclusive jurisdiction until it releases the continuing exclusive jurisdiction.  By filing your petition for dissolution of marriage in the State of Indiana, assuming that jurisdictional requirements are met, the Indiana court would have jurisdiction over your child related issues from your present marriage.  If an out of state court has issued orders concerning support of children of the marriage, you will have to file a motion in both states to transfer continuing exclusive jurisdiction to the State of Indiana for issues concerning the children of your marriage.

You have asked if you need to make payments pursuant to orders of various state courts.  The best answer I can give you is yes, you must follow all orders of the courts, no matter how unfair they seem.

 

Jason P. Hopper is an Associate Attorney in the Indianapolis, Indiana, office of Cordell & Cordell where his primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Mr. Hopper is licensed in the state of Indiana – All State and Appellate courts, US District Court Northern District Indiana, US District Court Southern District Indiana, US Bankruptcy Court Southern District Indiana.

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