The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act: Comprehensive Update
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The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) has now been enacted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. (A Table of State Citations to UIFSA appears at the end of this Manual.) UIFSA addresses widespread criticisms of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) and its successor, the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (RURESA), and facilitates the establishment, enforcement, and modification of child support orders.
URESA, which provided the first mechanism for establishing and enforcing child support orders across state lines, was revolutionary when it was drafted in 1950. In practice, however, it proved troublesome:
URESA lacked a long-arm provision, so all proceedings required a cumbersome two-state process, where proceedings were initiated in the first state by filing a petition or a request for registration that was forwarded to the responding state.
URESA was designed to allow obligees to track down obligors and did not permit obligors to initiate an action.
A URESA order did not modify or replace a prior support order and was not replaced by any other support order, unless specifically provided for by the court. Thus, each URESA order existed independent of any other support order involving the same parties and child. If the URESA order required the obligor to pay support in an amount different from that set forth in the original support order, the obligor had to comply with both orders, although payments made pursuant to one order were credited to both. He or she was always obligated to pay the highest amount. The resulting proliferation of conflicting orders confused parents and contributed to accounting errors, as payments made in one state often were not credited against another state’s order.
The UIFSA drafting committee addressed these problems by drafting an entirely new Act.
UIFSA includes expansive new long-arm provisions and relaxed Rules of Evidence, which permit most interstate child support cases to be litigated in one state and reduce the need for cumbersome two-state proceedings.
Because the drafters recognized that obligors relocate for a variety of legitimate reasons, either the obligor or the obligee may initiate a UIFSA action.
UIFSA embodies a policy of "one order, one time, one place": there can be only one control ling order. To carry out this new policy, the Act includes rules to determine which of several existing child support orders is controlling, and it generally does not permit a tribunal to modify a support order in a UIFSA enforcement action. The state which issues the controlling order retains continuing exclusive jurisdiction to modify the order, except under limited circumstances.
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