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Understanding How Child Support Works Across State Lines


Fort Collins child support lawyer

Child support is one of the most complicated areas of divorce law. If your case involves an out-of-state spouse or child relocation, child support can be even more difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, a child support order across state lines can increase the risk of unpaid support or late payments – taking away the money that you need for childcare. Learn more about this topic to understand what to do if your divorce or legal separation involves a child support arrangement split across multiple states.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

According to a law known as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), one state can proceed with a lawsuit against a parent who lives in a different state if the first state can establish jurisdiction over the individual. In other words, the state must establish that it has the legal authority to make decisions that affect the out-of-state person. Only then can the state enforce or modify a child support order. All 50 states have some version of the UIFSA.

In Colorado, the UIFSA prevents a parent from avoiding a child support obligation by leaving the state of its original order. In other words, your ex-spouse cannot get out of paying child support by moving to a different state. If your original divorce or legal separation order was made in Colorado, for example, Colorado will still maintain jurisdiction over your out-of-state ex when it comes to enforcing a child support order. 

Under the rules of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, Colorado can take action to penalize your out-of-state ex-spouse or use other remedies to resolve your family law issue, such as holding your ex in contempt, using wage garnishment, or making him or her pay interest on late child support payments. This is the case no matter where your ex-spouse moves.

Which State Has Jurisdiction of Your Child Support Agreement?

If you and your ex-spouse are both living in different states than you were when you got divorced or separated, it can be difficult to understand which state has jurisdiction over your court order. In general, either the parent or child must have established residency in a state to give that state jurisdiction over a child support matter. However, the courts of one state must also establish personal jurisdiction to proceed with a family law case. Personal jurisdiction means that a court has the power to make a decision regarding a party.

Obtaining personal jurisdiction over a nonresident of a state requires the nonresident to be served with a summons while in the State of Colorado, have lived in Colorado while supporting a child in the state or meet any other minimum required contacts with Colorado. Without personal jurisdiction, the Colorado court cannot hear the case. Even if Colorado lacks jurisdiction over a nonresident, however, the UIFSA still allows a party to file an action to collect unpaid child support in the state where the nonresident resides.

If the jurisdiction requirements are satisfied, the court in Colorado will have the power to enter a judgment against a party who lives out of state to modify a child support obligation or force the party to pay child support arrears (unpaid or late child support). Note that the court that gave the original family law order will maintain jurisdiction over the order – and any future child support issues that arise – until a parent relocates the child and registers the original order in that state, or if both parties consent to the change together in court.

What to Do if Your Ex-Spouse Fails to Make Child Support Payments

If your ex-spouse does not live in the same state that granted your original divorce decree, the first step in having him or her pay child support arrears is to understand which state has jurisdiction over your case. If you need assistance making this determination, contact an attorney in Fort Collins, Colorado at The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci, LLC for a case evaluation. Our child support lawyers can help you understand how child support works across state lines and how Colorado’s jurisdiction laws apply to your specific case. Call (970) 900-1800 today.

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