Working Across State Lines: Interstate Cooperation
Federal law requires that states help in establishing and enforcing support when one party resides and/or works in another state. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) is the law that establishes cooperation between states. All states have an office, the Central Registry, to receive incoming Interstate child support cases. They review the out of state request to make sure that the information given is complete. The request is then sent to the local child support agency in their state. Standardized forms are used to communicate necessary information needed to process the Interstate case action. Once the local child support office receives the case the requested action is processed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Listed below are frequently asked questions and answers to better assist you in understanding the Interstate child support process.
I know the address of my children’s father in another state, and my caseworker sent a petition to establish my order there. That was three months ago, and still no support payments. What’s wrong?
It may be any number of things: enforcement officials may not be able to serve notice on the non-custodial parent due to inadequate address information; if a hearing is necessary, it may take a while to get a court date. The demand for enforcement services is high and interstate pursuit is not a simple matter, but your caseworker is required to follow-up on your case if 90 days have passed since the last contact with the child support enforcement office in the other state. Continue to keep in touch with your caseworker to resolve any delay or to provide any new information you may have.
I need to establish paternity for my child, and the father lives in another part of the country. How does this work?
Because state paternity laws vary widely, it can be difficult to establish paternity across state lines. Most states have either a long-arm statute or other laws such as UIFSA that enable them to establish jurisdiction over the alleged father in another state, or refer the case for prosecution in the state where the father lives. If an attempt is being made to establish paternity according to the laws of the other state, the UIFSA petition sent to the state must include all the information required by the laws of that state. Frequently, genetic tests will be ordered to help the court in the other state determine paternity. Ask your caseworker about specific information about the laws in your state and the state where the other parent lives.
My caseworker filed a UIFSA petition for paternity. The father denied it, and the other court just dismissed the case. What went wrong?
A responding state should not dismiss a case without requesting the additional information needed to proceed, and the initiating state is required to provide that information in 30 days. Either party in a contested paternity action will be able to request genetic testing. Ask your caseworker to reopen the case. Paternity may be established until your child’s 18th birthday.
If paternity is established in another state, will the support order also be entered in that state?
Yes. Ask your caseworker how this is done.
I have had to wait several months for my enforcement agency to get a reply to its request for location assistance in another state. Why does it take so long?
Even though they try to be responsive, most enforcement agencies have a very high demand for their services and they have to set priorities among the cases they receive. A state’s ability to act rapidly depends on the characteristics of the case, the quality of information received, and the amount of staff and other resources they have to devote to it. Be sure to follow-up regularly with your caseworker to make sure that each state is responding within the time limits allowed.
As soon as the father of my children is notified about enforcement, he moves. How will I ever be able to collect my support?
Many custodial parents feel angry when, after the non-custodial parent is finally located and served notice of the enforcement action, he or she then moves on. Unquestionably, it is difficult to enforce child support payments when the non-custodial parent intentionally and continually moves to avoid paying. You may want to suggest that papers be served at the parent’s place of work, then try to keep track of the parent’s movements afterwards. Try to be an active participant in your case. Whenever you learn that the non-custodial parent has moved or has a new job, you should bring this information to the attention of your enforcement caseworker as soon as possible.
Will location and enforcement services cost more if my agency is dealing with another state? I am not receiving Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA).
Possibly. It depends on what the child support enforcement office has to do to find the non-custodial parent and establish regular payment. The more solid information and leads you provide, the more efficiently your case can be conducted. For Non-TCA cases, states vary in what they may charge for application and collection fees. Your caseworker should be able to tell you more about these costs in your particular case.
I don’t have a support order. Can I establish one by petitioning the court where my ex-husband lives?
Yes, this can also be done by your child support enforcement office in a UIFSA petition. An affidavit of all the pertinent facts, including the name and address of the responsible parent, details of your financial circumstances and the needs of your child will be included. The petition will be sent to the enforcement agency where the father lives. The court in the responding state will review the information together with the information regarding the father’s ability to pay and set the amount to be paid.
The father of my child has left the United States. How can I get my court order for child support enforced?
Check with your local and state child support enforcement agency. The federal child support office and many state child support enforcement agencies have agreements with foreign countries to recognize child support judgments made in either country. You will need the same kind of information as is required for enforcement in this country and as much specific address information as you can find. If the non-custodial parent works for an American company, wage withholding may work even if the country he lives in does not have any agreement to enforce a United States court order.
I checked with the child support enforcement office, but my daughter’s father lives in a country that has no agreement with any state or the federal child support office to enforce child support obligations. Is there anything else to try?
The Office of Citizens Consular Services may be able to give you information about how to have the support order enforced in that country and how to obtain a list of attorneys there.