Interstate Family Support Act
Uniform Interstate Family Support (UIFSA)
URESA & RURESA - UIFSA
The enforcement of family support, when the mother, father or children all live in the same state, is difficult enough. When it comes to interstate enforcement, things get downright complicated.
Prior to 1950, a US parent who wanted to ensure support against the other parent who lived in another US state had to travel to the support debtor's state to take legal action.
Since 1950, a uniform act has existed that allowed for those states which subscribed to it, to enforce each other's support orders. The 1950 act, prepared under the auspices of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, was called "URESA", short for Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act.
In 1968, URESA was amended and the new act was called
for Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement
A January 1992 US General Accounting Report concluded that 30% of all child support cases are interstate and that children in interstate cases are less likely than in-state children to receive support payments. In fact, 34% of custodial mothers in interstate cases report that they have never received a penny.
The federal government decided to take the lead and again sponsored the revision of the uniform interstate support legislation. The result was the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or "UIFSA". In announcing the uniform legislation, the federal government announced its intention to attach considerable federal funding to the adoption of the uniform act by the 52 American states, but this inducement has not yet been legislated.
Still, as of May, 1996, more than half of the US states have enacted UIFSA including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Indiana, Maryland and Mississouri are expected to incorporate UIFSA into their statute books on January 1, 1997.
URESA & RURESA
The URESA system was much like the British
of maintenance orders (REMO) system. Under URESA, a two-stop system was
developed: a custodial
would file a petition in the "initiating" state, which would be then
sent to the "responding state", where the support
debtor lived or owned property. A government-paid attorney would
represent the out-of-state mother in the court hearing
in the responding state. The responding state's court
One of the greatest failings of URESA was the latitude left to individual state legislators to amend the uniform act, while adopting other parts of it. In addition, RURESA or URESA petitions took time: four to eight months. URESA/RURESA applications require considerably more paper and administration than do UIFSA applications. One lawyers said that filing a RURESA or URESA action was like sending the case "into a black hole." Nor were the earlier interstate acts designed to work with modern American support enforcement programs.
The UIFSA system is based on the primacy of just one support order. Under URESA or RURESA, the order developed through the interstate process could co-exist with non-interstate orders, so there could be more than one valid support order at the same time, between the same parties. Proliferation of orders made enforcement a nightmare.
Under URESA, if a parent had an existing support order, she would have two options. She could have the order registered in the state where the support debtor resided and it would then be enforced. Or she could, as mentioned above, send an interstate petition to the responding state, in which case a new order would be issued consistent with the support guidelines of the responding state. Even if the new order was lesser than the original order, arrears would continue to accrue under the initiating state's order so that, if the debtor or his property were ever to come under the jurisdiction of the initiating state, the arrears could be enforced as if the URESA order never existed.
UIFSA opted for a "one-stop shopping" approach, giving a state "long-arm" jurisdiction over a child support debtor even where nonresident. This is an exception to the normal rules of law where a court would not have jurisdiction over a nonresident. A state would have this jurisdiction, essentially, if one party or child resides in the state or if the parties agree to transfer continuing exclusive jurisdiction to another state (there are other "long-arm jurisdiction" grounds listed at section 201 of UIFSA).
The first state to impose a support order retains "continuing exclusive jurisdiction" as long as one of the parties continues to reside in that state or if both parties agree to transfer jurisdiction to another state. Until one of those events occurs, only the state which authorized the original support order can modify the award. In this way, all parties, courts and enforcement officials are assured that, between UIFSA states, there can only be one support order in effect at any given time.
In modification proceedings, it will be the law of the "continuing exclusive jurisdiction" state which will govern whether or not the nonresident has a duty of support. Note, however, that for enforcement purposes, it will be the law of the enforcing state that will govern enforcement proceedings.
Once issued, an support order may be sent to any other UIFSA state for registration. The exclusive power to modify a support order is of little use if the order cannot be enforced on an interstate basis. Registration gives the debtor's state enforcement authorities the jurisdiction to set all of their enforcement methods and agents loose against the debtor as if the order were an order of their own tribunal.
Registration does not give the enforcing state any authority to modify the order. The initiating state maintains continuing exclusive jurisdiction even though the debtor lives, or the order is being enforced, elsewhere.
Under UIFSA, a state can lose continuing exclusive jurisdiction if, for example and as discussed above, if none of the children or parents live in the state or if there is an agreement to transfer the file to another state. In those circumstances, it is possible to transfer continuing exclusive jurisdiction in order to modify the support award.
With the overlap of URESA/RURESA, it will be many
before all the
non-UIFSA orders are flushed out of the system. UIFSA has a special
section (207) which calls for a priority in the
case of multiple RURESA/URESA orders, with precedence given to the most
recent order issued by a tribunal of the
child's home state. In addition, a new federal Full faith And Credit
For Child Support Orders Act will greatly facilitate
where URESA or RURESA orders conflict with a
Perhaps one of the most useful enforcement aspect of UIFSA is the ability to send an income withholding order directly to an employer in another UIFSA state. Other enforcement-friendly aspects of UIFSA include the judicial recognition of documents transmitted electronically (including facsimile copies) and testimony given by teleconference or by videotape. This alleviates any concerns over the economic burden placed on debtors which would otherwise have to travel to give evidence in modification proceedings under the "continuing exclusive jurisdiction" rule. UIFSA also comes with a set of federally-developed standard forms which are expected to be published in 1996.
For more information about UIFSA or insterstate enforcement of support orders, each state has a "central registry" for the reception of interstate documents. Check for your state's central registry under the headings "child support" in your state's government phone book or call the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.
USA Law Offices
We welcome comments, words of encouragement, criticisms, advice, suggestions or just to point out a grammar or spelling mistake which you have found. Click here to send an e-mail to the World Wide Legal Information Association's Webmaster.
©WWLIA 1995, 1996. The information provided in this and all WWLIA documents is internationally copyright protected and does not represent legal advice. If and when you face a specific legal situation, you should conduct independent inquiries with legal professionals to determine what your legal rights may be.