How Can The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) Affect Your Family Interstate Jurisdiction Problems?
Are you a parent having trouble collecting your child support for the children because your EX-spouse lives in another state? This has been a problem for many families for a long time. The United States Congress recognized this problem and mandated all states to adopt the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to facilitate collection of child support across state lines.
It is no surprise that people move, but when trying to collect child support from an out-of-state parent you may need legal help to avoid unpleasant surprises.
When more than one state is involved in establishing, enforcing or modifying a child or spousal support order, the UIFSA determines the jurisdiction and power of the courts in the different states. The Act also establishes which state’s law will be applied, an important factor as support laws vary greatly among the states.
If there is no current child support order and the child and one parent live in Texas, the order or paternity determination may be established without another state’s involvement. If the parents have sufficient contact with Texas, the court may be able to enter an order even if one parent does not currently live in the state. UIFSA enables Texas and another state to cooperate to establish a child support order if another state’s assistance is needed because of residency issues.
UIFSA permits only one active support order for a case at a time. When there are multiple orders, UIFSA determines which support order will be followed, known as the “controlling order.” Orders may be registered in a different state for enforcement and modification purposes. The initiating state sends the order and documents to the responding state. The responding state registers the order and sends a notice to the other parent. The other parent has 20 days to file written objections regarding the order. If objections are made prior to the deadline, the court will hold a hearing and decide whether the order should be registered.
UIFSA also allows parents to enforce their support orders without the assistance of the state where the obligor (paying parent) lives. A withholding order, in many cases, can be sent directly to the out-of-state obligor’s employer requiring child support be deducted from the parent’s wages. The responding state also has the authority to pursue collection through enforcement hearings, license suspension, or incarceration of the delinquent, non-custodial parent.
If financial or other circumstances have changed, you may also request the court to modify a child support order. UIFSA sets the rules for modification. If either of the parents or the child still lives in the state that issued the controlling order, changes in the support amount must occur there. Otherwise the order may be registered and modified in the child’s home state. The child’s home state is generally where the child has resided for six (6) months with a parent.
If all parties have left the state that issued the controlling order, that state cannot change the support amount. To modify support, the order must be registered for modification in the state of residence of the parent not seeking modification.
UIFSA allows both parents to agree in writing that the state where one parent resides may modify the order and take control of the case. When a state modifies another state’s order, the new support amount is the amount to be collected by all any state in which the obligor resides.
Parents often turn to the Texas Attorney General for assistance in the collection and enforcement of child support, and that can be a good choice. However, parents – especially those who are experiencing continued delays and roadblocks – can hire a private attorney to advocate on their behalf and for the benefit of their children. An attorney can also provide guidance in enforcing and modifying terms of visitation.
Former spouses often use informal visitation arrangements as an opportunity to assault, harass, stalk, and emotional abuse their children and former partners. In addition, some parents will use their children as a means to hurt the other parent by denying access to the child(ren) even though such access has been ordered by the court, i.e. failing to be at home during scheduled visitation periods, failing to bring the child(ren) to a scheduled location for the other parent to exercise their court ordered visitation, faking illness, etc.
Supervised visitation takes place between the non-custodial parent and his or her child(ren) in the presence of a third party who observes the visit to ensure the child’s physical and emotional safety. Though sometimes reasonably and successfully ordered, visits voluntarily supervised by friends and family in their homes can be fraught with danger for the child and parent, as well as the monitor, especially in cases of domestic violence. Family members may trust the parent whose visits are being supervised and therefore may not take proper or sufficient measures to assure the child(ren) are watched or monitored at all times during the visit.
Consequently, when supervision is indicated, possession/visitation supervised by a neutral third party with the capacity to enforce effective safety measures is normally ordered and enforced by the courts. The expenses of such supervision are often excessive and may in themselves create a detriment to possession by a parent. Such agencies may also provide reports and recommendations to the court based on the success or failure of the supervised visits. Such recommendations assist the courts in making informed decisions regarding supervision and whether continued supervision in the best interest of the child(ren).
If supervised visitation is requested, some type of compelling reason and evidence, based on the circumstances surrounding the child(ren) must normally be established. Such evidence may include denial of access, drug addiction, mental or physical abuse, neglect, or severe mental illness of a parent. The following is a potential list of acts and/or circumstances that may be considered contrary to a child’s best interest.
• Violence or physical endangerment – A noncustodial parent may be denied visitation rights if the parent has abused the child or threatened physical violence.
• Emotional harm – Where sufficient proof is offered of potential emotional harm or that standard visitation has detrimentally affected a child’s welfare, supervised visitation may be ordered.
• Child’s wishes – A court may consider the child’s wishes as to visitation. The weight given to a child’s preference is dependent on the child’s age, emotional stability, maturity and motives.
• Abduction – There must be a showing that there is a strong imminent probability of abduction to limit visitation on this basis.
• Substance abuse – A parent who abuses drugs or alcohol may be ordered to supervised visitation restrictions if the conduct endangers the child or if the parent uses abusive language and/or mistreats the child.
• Mental illness –Mental incapacity may be a reason for supervised visitation only if it is determined by the court that there is a reasonable potential for harm to the child due to such mental illness.
• Sexual behavior – Courts rarely deny visitation solely on the basis of a non-marital heterosexual relationship. Courts will, however, cancel overnight visitation by a child with a parent because of the parent’s cohabitation on a showing of an adverse and material negative impact on the child.
• Incarceration – Visitations due to incarceration may be suspended only on a showing that such visits are detrimental to the child.
To have more of your questions answered on supervised visitation in Texas, or for answers to any other Texas child custody concerns you may have, call Dallas Divorce attorney Mark Nacol of the Nacol Law Firm P.C.