Enforcing Support Orders Against Out of State Party

For anyone contemplating moving from California to another state to avoid paying spousal or child support, think again.  California has adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support ACT (UIFSA) under the Family Code (Sections 5700 et. al.), which limits state jurisdiction that can properly establish and modify support orders and addresses enforcement of support obligations within the United States.  In other words, this act makes it easier to enforce California support orders against out of state parties.

For example, California does not necessarily lose personal jurisdiction if a support obligor moves to another state.  If California is the state that issued the support order and California maintained exclusive jurisdiction, California courts have enforcement powers.  This means a California judge can issue an Income Withholding Order against an out of state obligor, which can then be served on the obligor’s employer and the employer is required to garnish the obligor’s wages.

Does this conflict with jurisdiction requirements?  Courts have said: No.

The basic constitutional restriction on the exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is the requirement of sufficient “minimum contact” between the defendant and the forum state to make it fair to require him to defend the lawsuit there.  A crucial inquiry is whether, in view of the defendant’s forum-related activities, it is reasonable and fair to require the defendant to conduct his defense there.  In cases where California is the marital domicile, the minor children were born there, the parties lived and worked there, and the marriage was dissolved there, the courts have held California is both a reasonable and fair forum to litigate support actions against nonresident obligors.   This means one cannot move to another state to avoid paying support under the theory that California no longer has jurisdiction and the support order cannot be enforced.   This belief is incorrect and you are only setting yourself up for a significant support arrearage.  Not to mention you may be liable for paying the other party’s attorney fees…

If you are struggling to pay a support order, I recommend consulting with an attorney to discuss filing a request to modify the support order as opposed to moving out of state.