by Christine Ulrich
Divorce settlements with minor children will most often declare an amount of child support to be paid from one parent to the other. This amount will stay the same until one party seeks to modify such amount. Modification of the child support orders often become necessary as a person’s earning capacity shifts due to new jobs, promotions, demotions or unemployment.
Moreover, the financial needs of the children may change after an initial order of child support is entered. Additionally, it is becoming more and more common for a parent to move to other counties, other states, or even other countries after divorce. Circumstances change, life happens, and a long distance move by one party is increasingly common.
THE QUESTION: When it is time to file a modification for child support, where do you file your case when you (or the other) party moves away?
THE ANSWER: If the party moves to a different county in Georgia, the plaintiff must file suit in the new county where defendant moved to. If the party moves to a different county in a different state, the original court will have continuing jurisdiction over the issue of child support as long as at least ONE party – whether the mother, father, or child – still lives in that original jurisdiction.
Let’s take an example. Suppose Husband and Wife live in Fulton County, Georgia, with their child. After irreconcilable differences occur, they divorce in Fulton County. After a few years and changed circumstances, Wife wants to files for a modification of child support. If, after divorce, Husband moved to a new county still in Georgia, then Wife would be required to bring a modification lawsuit in that new county were Husband moved to in Georgia, and not the county wherein the divorce decree was rendered or the county of residence at the time of the original divorce.
Where do you file for child support modification?
However, let’s say that after divorce, Husband moves to South Carolina for a new job. Wife and child stay in Fulton County. Where is the proper jurisdiction to file this case – Fulton County or South Carolina?
All states have enacted UIFSA (Uniform Interstate Family Support Act). UIFSA was enacted to replace URESA (Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act) for child support enforcement proceedings filed on or after January 1, 1998. Prior to UIFSA, when parties in a child support action lived in different states, each state could issue its own child support orders. This potential for competing child support orders, with varying terms and duration, resulted in chaos. UIFSA addressed this chaos by establishing a “one-order” system for child support that provided that only ONE state would have continuing exclusive jurisdiction over child support.
Therefore, UIFSA states that the original jurisdiction in which the child support order was declared will continue to be the jurisdiction where modification of child support action must be brought.
However, UIFSA also affirms that the new state, South Carolina, could become the state to have jurisdiction to modify the child support order. In order for South Carolina to become the proper jurisdiction for the modification of child support, 1) all of the parties must reside in South Carolina and 2) the child no longer resides in the issuing state. Only then can a tribunal in South Carolina have jurisdiction to enforce and to modify the issuing state’s child support order.
Therefore, if any parties (whether it is Husband, Wife, or child) still reside in the original jurisdiction where the support order was decreed, that jurisdiction remains the proper court to file a case for modification until one of the two factors stated above occurs. Only then can the lawsuit be brought in a new state.
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