In Part I of Interstate Child Support we discussed enforcing child support orders when one, or both, parents no longer reside in Florida. But what if you want to modify your child support order? Whether you are seeking to lower your child support payments or seeking to increase the financial obligation paid by the other parent, the federal Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) governs modification of interstate child support orders.
An Existing Court Order
The first step is always to ensure that a valid child support order exists.
Determining Which Court Has Jurisdiction to Hear Modification
Whether the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent is seeking to change the terms of the child support order, section 205 of the UIFSA allows only for the state that entered the first child support order the ability to modify the order. This is legally known as having “continuing exclusive jurisdiction.” Therefore so long as the child support order was originally entered in Florida and either parent still resides in Florida, then the Florida courts are the only state court that can modify the child support order.
What if you have moved to another city in Florida? UIFSA applies to the entire state. For example, if the original child support order was entered in Liberty County and later you move further south to Polk County, Florida still has jurisdiction. The only difference is that that your application to modify the child support order must be filed in the county you now reside in.
Even if the original order was issued in Florida, the law becomes a bit more complicated when neither parent, nor the child(ren), resides in Florida.
Let’s use the following scenario to determine modification. The original order was issued in Florida. The custodial parent is Dad. Both Dad and the child move to New York and satisfy the personal jurisdiction requirements for NY. The non-custodial parent is Mom and she moves to California where she also satisfies the personal jurisdiction requirements for CA. It can be overwhelming for a parent to know how to seek a modification in this situation, but Article 6 of the UIFSA helps with this common issue.
Using the above states and parents, modification is a two-step process and is determined by which parent is seeking the modification. This process is similar to the way enforcement works in requiring that the parent seeking modification (the petitioner) play the game on the other parents “home field.” First, if Dad is seeking an upward modification of Mom’s support obligation he will have to register the Florida custody order in California where Mom now lives and then Dad will have to file his motion to modify the child support order in California also. If Mom seeks a downward modification of her support obligation then Mom will have to register the Florida custody order in New York where Dad lives and also file her motion in New York.
Determining Which State Laws Apply to the Modification
Each state has its own laws pertaining to how child support obligations will be determined. In some states child support obligations end when a child turns 18. In other states that obligation does not end until the child turns 21. Some states require parents to contribute financially to college expenses while other states do not. UIFSA again comes to the rescue in simplifying which state law applies when parents seek modification to their financial child support obligations.
If Florida was the state in which the original child support order was issued, it is Florida law that will control when the child support obligation will end and whether or not the parents will be required to contribute to the financial costs associated with the child attending college. However, the amount that is paid for child support, typically a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s wages, will be determined by the law of the state that has jurisdiction to modify the order.
Therefore, if one of the parents still lives in Florida, then Florida law will determine all of the above issues. If both parents, and the child, reside outside of Florida then the rules for which law controls is different. Using the earlier scenario, if Dad is seeking a modification then California law will apply to determining the amount to be paid while Florida law will continue to determine when the support obligation will end. If Mom is seeking a modification then New York law will apply to determining the amount to be paid but Florida law will continue to determine when the support obligation will end.
Once a modification has been made in Florida to a child support order, Florida courts will continue to exclusively oversee any future requests for modification so long as at least one of the parents continues to live in Florida.
If both parents reside outside of Florida, the state that properly modifies the child support order will now have continuing exclusive jurisdiction for all future modifications.
This area of law can be complex and confusing. If you have questions about modifying a support order, you should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. They will have the knowledge and experience to assist in this matter. This is especially true if a party has moved out of state and now the additional laws apply to your situation. A dedicated family law attorney will help you move through the maze to help obtain the best result.