In this article we explain interstate child support jurisdiction and how to determine which state has jurisdiction to initiate a child support case or to modify or enforce an existing child support order. Understanding child support is a complex issue, especially when multiple jurisdiction issues arise. Illinois abides by the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. This act sets the rules in determining whether a specific state court has standing to hear or adjudicate on an order that was rendered in another state.
A threshold issue when determining jurisdiction is whether you are seeking to:
1. initiate a new child support case in the absence of a pre-existing order;
2. Enforce an existing child support order in a different state; or
3. Modify an existing child support order in a different state.
In order to initiate, modify, or enforce a child support obligation, the state court in which the action is filed must have personal jurisdiction over the respondent. Personal jurisdiction is the power of a court to bind a party by its judgments. Typically, in order for a court to have personal jurisdiction over a person, the person must reside in the state or have had some previous or ongoing contact with the state as defined by the state's Long Arm Statute.
According to Illinois' Long Arm Statute, Illinois may assert jurisdiction in child support cases over a party that does not reside in Illinois in eight different ways:
A petitioner for child support can initiate a child support case in any state in which the petitioner can establish personal jurisdiction over the respondent as described above. In practical terms this means a child support case can be initiated in any state in which:
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act prohibits multiple support orders. Only one state order can be effective at any given time. The state in which the child support order was initially issued will have continuing exclusive jurisdiction to modify the child support obligation unless both parties agree otherwise or both parties move out of the state. So long as one parent remains in the state in which the original child support order was entered, the case cannot be moved to a different state for the purpose of modification without that parent's consent.
If both parents move out of the state in which the original child support was entered, then the case may be transferred for the purpose of future modification of the order to any state that has personal jurisdiction over both parents. If the parents live in different states, this often means that the party seeking to modify the order will consent to the the other party's home state having personal jurisdiction over him or her.
If multiple child support orders exist at the same time, the cases will be merged into one. The child’s home state is given the priority. If there is no home state, the first state of filing controls. In other words, the original issuing state will control as long as one parent or child continues to live in that state.
There is an important distinction between jurisdiction to initiate or modify a child support obligation on the one hand and jurisdiction to enforce a child support order existing in another state. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act permits the registration of a support order in a foreign state that has personal jurisdiction over the obligee. When a parent registers an order in a foreign state, that state may enforce the order but is not allowed to modify the order.
Below is an example to illustrate how the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act works:
The mother and father lives in Wisconsin. The mother moves to Illinois with the child and wants to enforce a child support order that came out of Wisconsin. The mother has registered the order in Illinois and wants it enforced.
Questions / Answers
Can the mother seek enforcement in Illinois?
Can the mother modify child support on the Wisconsin Court Order in Illinois?
Can Mother modify child support if Dad moves to Illinois?
If Father moves to Maine, can mother seek modification in Illinois?
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act statute provides avenues for collecting on unpaid child support. The non-custodial parent may choose to exercise the option of collecting unpaid child support with the help of local authorities where the non-custodial parent resides, such as: wage garnishment or execution of an arrest warrant.
To learn more about how to register a child support order in a different state for the purposes of enforcement or transfer a child support case to another state for the purpose of modifying the terms of the child support order, with specifics as to Illinois procedure, check out our article: How to Transfer a Child Support Case to a Different State.