How does child support work if my partner is in a different state?

The process of imposing or changing child support payment, when the parents live in different states, is challenging and complicated. Some common questions parents need to know are:

• If one partner is living in another state, in which state do I need to file the child support action?

• What happens if I, or the other parent, migrate to another state?

• Which state’s calculation method will be used if one parent resides in a different state?

• Will there be a change in the child support payment in another state?

The answers are completed, and the financial and legal outcomes for the parents can differ widely. Before proceeding further, it’s necessary to take a look at interstate child support law. 

What is Uniform Interstate Family Support Act?

The UIFSA, Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, is a set of laws enacted by all states. It determines which state has jurisdiction over child support and establishes the manner by which parties can seek to modify or impose child support when different states are involved.

UIFSA directs the procedure, not the amount, of multi-state child support actions. UIFSA leaves the amount calculation to the individual states, and each state possesses a separate calculation method. 

Where Do I File the Case if Child Support Order Hasn’t Been issued Yet?

If child support payment has not yet been determined, you possess two options:

  1. You can directly file your case in the state which has personal jurisdiction over the other parent
  2. You have the option to file in your own state, your case will be forwarded to the state where the other party resides. In this case, the state in which you file is called the “initiating tribunal” and the other state is called the “responding tribunal.”

States calculate child support differently. One state may decrease the child support amount for health insurance paid by the paying parent and/or reduction in the amount of parenting time can also be granted. One state may determine the incomes of both parents in the calculation, while the other may use only the income of the paying parent.

For Enforcement of Issued Order, What Do I Need to Do?

For example, child support order was established when both parents lived in Washington. After that, the custodial parent continued to reside in Washington, and the other parent migrated to Hawaii.

To get payment of child support, you can directly send the child support order to the employer of the other partner in Hawaii. 

Or you can send a copy of the order, along with a variety of other documents, to the Hawaii court and get registered your child support order. After registration of the order, you gain access to specific enforcement options: collecting past-due amounts of child support, restricting the other party’s driver’s license for nonpayment, etc. Also, after register, you can change child support payments in that state more easily.

When you register the order, Hawaii enforces nearly all of the Washington laws regarding arrearages, nature, extent, interest, amount, and duration of payments, etc.

How Do I Change Child Support Payment?

To change child support if another state is involved, the procedure depends on whether a state’s courts have a “continuing exclusive jurisdiction” (“CEJ”). A state has this jurisdiction if it is the controlling order and:

  1. At the time of filing for payment changes, the non-custodial parent, custodial parent, or the child, resides in the state in which the child support order was issued; or
  2. Both parents consent to the initial state’s jurisdiction, even if none of the parents live there anymore.

When the Washington state has CEJ, any party can file a motion to change child support in Washington. Washington’s law and calculation procedure will be implemented, even if the other party has gone to another state. 

If Washington does not have CEJ, then the parent seeking to change child support payment must register the prior child support order in the other state, let’s say Hawaii, and either:

1. All the parties live in Hawaii.

2. Otherwise, a hearing must be held, and you must prove:

a. None of the parties reside in Washington, the parent seeking changes does not reside in Hawaii, and the other parent is subject to personal jurisdiction in Hawaii; or

b. At least one parent, or the child, lives in Hawaii, and both partners consent to Hawaii’s jurisdiction.

Under either the above option, child support will be calculated according to Hawaii’s rules, not Washington. But, Hawaii cannot change any aspect of child support payments which cannot be changed in Washington.

Can My Child Support Payment Alter If It’s established in Another State?

Yes. Every state calculates and establishes child support payments according to its own guidelines. Payment order varies, sometimes by a large amount, and sometimes by a small. As the number of children increases, the income of one or both parties rises, and the disparity between states’ child support calculations grows as well.

Your child support payments could easily halve or double if calculated in another state. With very huge income, payments can turn by multiple thousands of dollars.

It’s vital to manage these multi-state child support matters right. The consequences of order can have a tremendous financial impact on you and your child.

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