Interstate Child Support

Part I: Enforcement of Interstate Child Support

An Existing Court Order

The starting point for enforcement of child support payments against a parent who no longer lives in Florida begins with a child support order. An order must exist before there can be any enforcement. If you are owed child support pursuant to a divorce decree or had the courts involved in assuring the other parent would be financially responsible to pay child support, then you should already have an order. If you do not, your first step should be to contact the local child support agency nearest you to obtain one.

Locating the Other Parent

If you know where the other parent is located, then that information is golden as it allows the courts the ability to contact the other parent and take steps for enforcement. If you do not know where the other parent is then finding an address for the other parent should be the next step. You do not have to do this alone, nor should you have to hire a private investigator. Florida, like all other states, has a parent locator service. The Department of Revenue is the state agency that is responsible for Florida’s Child Support Enforcement Program. The Department of Revenue works with many agencies in and out of the state of Florida to enforce child support orders. Some of the resources available to locate the other parent include the ability to search both state and federal employment records, civil and criminal court records, data reported to credit bureaus, and information on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles. You can help in this process by providing the Department of Revenue with as much information as possible to help locate the other parent such as the other parents name, social security number, date of birth, photos, and any past employment or addresses you are aware of. You should also provide the Department of Revenue with all court documents related to support, custody, and/or divorce. More information can be found on the Department of Revenue’s website here.

Petition for Wage Garnishment

If the other parent’s location is known and they are employed, a popular and effective option to enforce your child support order out of state is to petition to have the Florida courts send a garnishment order directly to the other parent’s employer.  Federal law prohibits employers from refusing court orders to garnish wages from another state. This allows for child support to be directly taken from the other parent’s disposable income by the employer which is in turn directly paid to you as the custodial parent. The other parent never even sees the money thus ensuring that the child support is paid.

Involving the Court System

If wage garnishment is not an option don’t become discouraged. If the other parent has enough contact with Florida for the courts to exercise power over the other parent, then the Florida court is said to have personal jurisdiction. In such circumstances you can petition the Florida courts to take additional actions to enforce the child support order.

When the Florida court doesn’t have the required jurisdiction, parents can turn to The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). This is a federal law that has been adopted in some form by every state and was designed to specifically address the issue of enforcing child support orders from one state against an out of state parent.  Under UIFSA there are many options available to enforce a child support order. By working with the Department of Revenue you can petition the Florida courts to forward the child support order to the state where the other parent now resides. You can also ask the local child support agency in the other parent’s state, or a private attorney in the other parent’s state, to enforce your child support order. If feasible you can also personally go to the other parent’s state and file a petition for enforcement of the original child support order. At that point the other parent’s residential state can take steps to enforce the order.

UIFSA requires all states to enforce valid child support orders from other states. This law further ensures that all child support disputes are handled in a “uniform manner” no matter what state the dispute arises in. It’s important to note that this does not mean that all disputes will have the same outcome but it does ensure that every state will enforce another state’s child support order in a consistent manner. Usually the law of the state where the child support order is being enforced is the controlling law. However the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (FFCCSOA) establishes an exception where the courts must apply the laws of the state that issued the order. Therefore if your child support order was issued in Florida but the other parent now resides in New York, the court in New York enforcing the child support order must follow Florida’s law in enforcing the amount and duration of payments.

Criminal Sanctions

Failing to pay court ordered child support can be a violation of both state and federal criminal law. Florida prosecutors can file charges against the parent for non-support regardless if the other parent lives in Florida or another state. If the other parent is stopped by police in another state, even for something as simple as a traffic violation, the other parent can be sent back to Florida to answer the criminal charges against them. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the result can include incarceration, probation, and other means to compel compliance with the child support order.

Where to Start

 If you are facing any of the above issues, then you should consult with a dedicated family law attorney, one who has experience with these matters.  It can be a bit overwhelming, so don’t try to go it alone.