Collecting child support often becomes the most contentious aspect of a divorce. A party may not move across state lines in an effort to avoid payment of child support. However, in order to enforce a child support order in another state, a court must establish the proper authority prior to act.
Before any interstate child support enforcement or modification litigation may begin, the moving party must first give adequate notice to all parties involved in the case and the moving party must qualify under a state statute governing the court’s authority. This notion of having notice and qualifying under the court’s authority is called “jurisdiction”. Jurisdiction, normally satisfied during the initial stages of a case, can become particularly complex if a case involves parties or children who reside in different states.
In Colorado, the statute governing the court’s jurisdiction in cases involving the collection of child support is the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“UIFSA”), adopted in 1995. The main effect of UIFSA in child support enforcement cases is to prevent a non-paying party avoiding his/her obligation by leaving the state of original jurisdiction. UIFSA provides the party, to whom support is owed with a variety of remedies, including contempt, to collect on the support obligation of a non-resident party.
Under UIFSA, either the parties or the child in a case must have established residency prior to the time of filing to give the Colorado court jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. But the parties must also have personal jurisdiction to proceed. To obtain personal jurisdiction over a non-resident under UIFSA, the individual must: (1) be personally served with a summons inside the State of Colorado; (2) file a response to the original pleading; (3) have lived in Colorado while support a child in Colorado; or (4) have a variety of other minimum contacts with Colorado. Without proper subject matter and personal jurisdiction, the court cannot hear the case at all. However, in those cases which lack jurisdiction over a non-resident party, UIFSA authorizes the filing of the action to collect support in the state where the non-resident resides.
Once the jurisdiction requirement has been satisfied under UIFSA, the Court may enter orders against non-resident parties for: (1) establishing or modifying a child support obligation; (4) recovering child support arrearages; (5) and requiring a party to provide medical insurance for a child. In addition, UIFSA allows the Colorado Court’s to order the payment of or enforce a spousal maintenance order over a non-resident. Under UIFSA, the original court will maintain exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the aforementioned issues unless the parties and the child move to another state and register the original order, or if the parties consent to the change in courts.