In the United States, each state has specific laws governing paternity and divorce matters, all of which encompass some formulation, regulation, or provision for the payment of child support.
With our ever-mobile society, more and more families are moving from state to state and thus, some regulation is needed between the states to enforce child support orders from other states. The UCCJEA is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.1 The UCCJEA has been adopted by 49 states, including Indiana.2
The UCCJEA vests “exclusive [and] continuing jurisdiction” for child custody litigation in the courts of the child's “home state,” which is the state where the child has lived with a parent for six (6) consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding for an initial custody, parenting time, and/or child support determination.
There are uniform procedures to register and enforce child-custody orders across state lines. A child custody determination issued by another state’s court can be registered in Indiana by filing with the appropriate Indiana court 1) a letter requesting registration, and 2) two (2) copies (including one which is certified) of the determination / order sought to be registered and 3) an accompanying statement under penalty of perjury from the person seeking registration of the order, that the order has not been modified physically. This is generally the same process to register an Indiana court’s order in another state that has adopted the UCCJEA, however the new state’s statutes should be referenced for specific instructions.
Indiana has also adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which provides a mechanism for cooperation between the states with respect to establishing child support, recognizing, enforcing, and/or modifying child support orders. Upon filing a request with and Indiana Court, Indiana shall “(1) Enforce the order that was modified only as to amounts accruing before the modification. (2) Enforce only nonmodifiable aspects of the order. (3) Provide other appropriate relief only for a violation of the order that occurred before the effective date of the modification. (4) Recognize the modifying order of the other state, upon registration, for the purpose of enforcement.”3
A child support order from another state must be registered in Indiana before Indiana may enforce and/or modify the order. One must first submit several documents and specific information to the Indiana court, which is outlined by Indiana Code § 31-18-6-2.4
The UCCJEA and UIFSA legislation generally addresses court orders by other states, and not foreign countries. Thus, what is a person to do if they have a court order for child support issued by another country?
In a recently decided case, Zivot v. London5, the parties were married and divorced in Canada, but have both since moved to the United States. Mother now resides in Indiana with the children, and Father resides in Georgia. The trial court, and Court of Appeals, applied the same requirements outlined in the UIFSA legislation for enforcement of other state’s child support orders, to this case, arising from a court order issued by a Canadian Court.
In Zivot v. London, Mother attempted to register, and enforce the child support order, as ordered by the court in Canada that divorced the parties. However, Mother submitted documents including a certificate of divorce, a settlement agreement, and handwritten notes by the parties that purported to modify the child support obligation in the settlement agreement. The trial court ruled that Indiana would register and enforce the child support the parties’ agreed to, by way of the handwritten notes, determining that the notes were a contract between the parties.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that the handwritten notes and certificate of divorce were not Orders issued by a Court, and therefore, could not be registered and enforced by Indiana. Therefore, it is important to note the complexity that may exist between states and other countries and account for this in terms of the time this might take to effectuate, counsel you select, and cost of the cases with interstate or international dimensions.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding the registration and enforcement of interstate, and foreign court orders in Indiana. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Lori Schmeltzer.
- Some caselaw refers to this as the UCCJA or UCCJL, as these are old acronyms for this Act, and depending on when the case was decided, either may be referenced.