I have had clients call me in the United States due a child support order established in either a different country of a different states. Just last week, I had an individual residing in Arizona and was frantic about finding an attorney who knew how to “handle” state child support cases. His case in particular was a foreign order established in India. He had hired an attorney locally but after having a close family friend recommend me, he decided to call my office.

He has hired me to insure that all his legal rights and available remedies are made known to him. He wanted an “expert” and he now has two attorneys. I am very pleased to say that after speaking to his Arizona attorney and our collective experience of 40 plus years, we should be able to get this case dismissed, included but not limited to, lack of due process and the generally illegality of enforcement abilities of the state.

The most difficult child support cases to enforce are those in which the parent obligated to pay child support lives in one state or another country and the child and custodial parent live in another.  As for foreign orders established in another country, reciprocal arrangements exists between the U.S. and the following countries: Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Canada (by province), Czech Republic, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, N. Ireland).

As for enforcing orders established in the U.S., states are required to pursue child support enforcement, including establishment of paternity and support obligations, as vigorously for children who live outside their borders as those under their own jurisdiction. Until recently, states used all or parts of a law called the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA).  The enactment of the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the federal mandate that all states enact the Uniform Interstate Family support Act (UIFSA), interstate enforcement became a priority.

Both URESA and UIFSA have procedures under which an attorney can refer a case for action in another state.  Interstate wage withholding can also be implemented. The order must first be registered in the state where the child and custodial parent reside. State agencies or private orders, through family courts will be the venue to insure the court order for child support is registered.

If you need to establish paternity for a child and the father lives in another part of the country, this should not stop you from establishing parentage.  Your state may be able to claim jurisdiction and establish paternity if the alleged father had lived in the state or your child was conceived in your state. Otherwise, your state can petition the other state to establish paternity under their laws. Often, genetic tests will be ordered to prove paternity.

I had a case where the state agency filed a URESA petition for paternity. The father denied it, and the court just dismissed the case. What did the state agency do wrong? A responding state’s child support agency should not dismiss a case without asking for the information it needs. The initiating state is required to provide that information within a time period. Either party in a contested paternity action can request genetic testing. I had the case re-opened for parentage, established child support and enforced the support order by wage earnings assignment.  You have the right to establish paternity until your child’s 18th birthday.

Another scenario is when a non-custodial parent is notified of enforcement, the parent moves to another location. It is difficult to enforce child support payments when the noncustodial parent changes residence with the full intent to evade child support payments. Try to be an active participant in your own case. Whenever you learn that the parent has moved or has a new job, immediately go to the state agency or advise your attorney.

There is a federal law that makes it a crime to not pay child support. The Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 makes it a federal crime to willfully fail to pay support.  In order to prosecute under this act, federal prosecutors must prove that the parent was financially able to meet his/her obligation at the time the payment was due.

If support arrearages are more than $5,000 or are unpaid for longer than 1 year, the parent is subject to punishment.  Priority is given to cases: (1) where there is a pattern of moving from state to state to avoid payment; (2) a pattern of deception (use of false name, social security); (3) where there is failure to make support payments after being held in contempt; and (4) where failure to make payments is connected to some other federal offense such as bankruptcy fraud.

State prosecutors can also file a criminal charge on a parent who purposefully evade paying a child support order.  Simply moving to another state does not prevent a parent from establishing and enforcing a child support order.  But it is a highly technical area and requires an experienced attorney who has worked with state child support agencies and family courts to insure success.