The federal government has required all states to enact the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or UIFSA, which is a law designed to sort out what was previously a jurisdictional mess between the states over who could impose, modify, or enforce child support or alimony obligations.
Personal Jurisdiction – Basis of UIFSA Child Support Jurisdiction
The basis of UIFSA jurisdiction is personal jurisdiction over the respondent party. This contrasts to child custody jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, where there is no need for personal jurisdiction over the parents as long as Colorado was the child’s home state when the parenting case was initiated.
The requirement for personal jurisdiction over a respondent is intended to ensure that one party cannot engage in “forum shopping” and haul the other into a state court where he has no contacts. Per C.R.S. 14-5-201(a), one of the following bases of jurisdiction must be satisfied to enter an initial child support or alimony order:
- Personal service inside Colorado.
- Consent, waiver, or entering a general appearance.
- Residing in Colorado with the child.
- Residing in Colorado, and providing prenatal expenses or support to a child.
- The child resides in Colorado as a result of the respondent’s acts.
- (For child support) Engaged in intercourse in Colorado which may have resulted in the child’s conception.
- There is any other basis for jurisdiction consistent with state and federal Constitutions.
If Colorado has a basis for jurisdiction consistent with the above factors, then courts here can enter an initial support order for child or spousal support, as long as there is no preexisting order from another state.
Exclusive & Continuing Child Support Jurisdiction to Modify Order
Once Colorado has acquired UIFSA child support jurisdiction, as long as that order remains the controlling order, Colorado courts retain “exclusive & continuing” jurisdiction to modify their own support orders, as long as one of the parents or the child continue to reside here.
If a party moves away, but Colorado retains exclusive jurisdiction because the child or other parent still live here, then Colorado keeps personal jurisdiction over the other parent who moved for any future modifications. C.R.S. 14-5-202.
But if both parents and the child move out of Colorado, then this state loses continuing exclusive jurisdiction to modify the support order – as long as a modification is filed in another state before someone moves back. C.R.S. 14-5-205(a).
If nothing is filed elsewhere, and a parent or child moved back to Colorado, then it’s as if no one ever moved, and Colorado retains its child support jurisdiction to modify its prior orders.
Modifying an Out of State Child Support Order in Colorado
Just like Colorado retains child support jurisdiction to modify its own orders, so too do the other states. Per C.R.S. 14-5-611(a)(1), Colorado has UIFSA child support jurisdiction to modify another state’s support order if:
- Neither the child, obligee or obligor live in the issuing state.
- The non-resident party is the petitioner seeking modification, and
- Colorado has personal jurisdiction over the respondent.
This is also known as “play away” jurisdiction – the party who wishes to modify support, regardless of whether he is the payor or the payee, must chase the other party to his/her state of residence, and fight it out on the other party’s home turf.
UIFSA Jurisdiction to Modify Alimony
Spousal maintenance is treated differently from child support jurisdiction. Once a state has entered a spousal support order, only that state retains exclusive jurisdiction to modify it, no matter where the spouses have moved since the divorce, and even if everyone moves away from the state which issued the order. C.R.S. 14-5-211(a).
Child Support Jurisdiction to Enforce Order
While only one state at a time can have UIFSA jurisdiction to enter or modify a child support order, any state with personal jurisdiction over the obligor has jurisdiction to enforce the order. So if Colorado enters an order, and the mother still lives in Colorado with the child but the father has moved to Texas, even though Colorado retains exclusive and continuing jurisdiction to modify, if the father stops paying support the mother could file in Texas where the father live to enforce the order.
Registration of International Child Custody or Alimony Orders
UIFSA jurisdiction over foreign support orders works in a similar way between the 43 nations which are signatories to the 2007 Family Maintenance Convention. The foreign order must first be registered in Colorado, and assuming the respondent has no legitimate grounds for objecting, once the order is confirmed, it’s enforceable as an order issued by a Colorado court.
For more information, see our Colorado Family Law Guide article Foreign Support Order: International Enforcement in Colorado.
More Information on UIFSA Child Support Jurisdiction
The Colorado Family Law Guide has an in-depth article on UIFSA Support Jurisdiction, covering both alimony and child support issues.
FAQ – UIFSA Child Support Jurisdiction
How is child support jurisdiction determined?
Under UIFSA, the basis of jurisdiction for an initial support order is that the respondent has connections to Colorado, such as being served in the state, residing in Colorado, having intercourse here which resulted in the child at issue, or consenting to jurisdiction.
How to change jurisdiction for child support?
As long as one party or the child still lives in Colorado, this state keeps continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify child support, unless both parties agree to another state having jurisdiction. Once everyone has moved away, the party wishing to change support must file in the state where the other party lives.
What is UIFSA?
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) is a law adopted in every state which establishes which state has jurisdiction to impose the initial child support or alimony obligation, or to modify the amounts in the future.
Award-Winning Child Support Jurisdiction Lawyers in Colorado Springs
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