Jurisdiction and the enforceability of one state’s child support judgment in another state’s court

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

My divorce took place in California, but both my ex-wife, daughter and I now live in Michigan.

In our divorce decree, I am obligated to pay child support until my child is 19 and I would be expected to pay for college tuition if it is “affordable.” I have fulfilled my child support obligation, but I am unable to pay for any of my daughter’s college costs.

Can my ex or child sue to get those funds? Which state has jurisdiction – the original state of California or our current state of Michigan?


Your question is about the enforceability of a California judgment in a Michigan court. In order for a Michigan court to have authority to enforce the terms of the California judgment, Michigan must have jurisdiction over the case and over the parties. Your former wife must first get the California judgment entered in Michigan.

Then, the court must find that it has jurisdiction over you. If you live in Michigan this will not be a problem. But if you live outside of the state, and have never lived in Michigan, Michigan cannot assert jurisdiction over you unless you consent, by accepting service of the suit.

Once the order is entered in Michigan, your former wife could file a motion to ask the judge to hold you in contempt for failing to obey the order. She is not technically suing you; rather, she is asking a Michigan judge to enforce a preexisting order. Your daughter cannot compel you to make the payments.

During contempt proceedings, a judge could compel you to pay, put you on a payment plan, fine you, or even put you in jail for not obeying the court order. You will want to be represented by an attorney if contempt proceedings are filed.

Although I practice law in Michigan, I cannot give you legal advice without thoroughly reviewing your case. Do not rely on this information as establishing an attorney-client relationship. Contact an attorney immediately for assistance. Cordell & Cordell does represent men in divorce in Michigan.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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