One of the main concerns of a divorced parent moving out-of-state is the continued receipt of established child support payments. Hopefully, the situation prior to relocation is one in which the ex-spouse, or obligor-spouse (spouse obligated to pay child support) is fully complying with any court-ordered child support. What if after the custodial parent moves to a new state like Delaware, the obligor-spouse stops making payments? Perhaps this parent is under the incorrect and unwise impression that his or her obligation to pay child support will cease upon the other spouse leaving the state. How does the custodial parent enforce an out-of-state or foreign order for child support in the state of Delaware? Upon arriving in a new state, does the custodial parent need to obtain a new order for child support?

The Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (FFCCSOA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1994. FFCCSOA is a federal statute that establishes the standards by which the states can determine their jurisdiction to issue their own support orders and the effect to be given to support orders from other states. The FFCCSOA confers upon one state the power to enforce according to its terms a child support order made by a court of another state.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“UIFSA”) permits the registration, enforcement and modification in Delaware of a support order issued by another state. The other party, usually the non-custodial parent or obligor-spouse, must object to the registration and raise one of the limited defenses against registration provided under the law. In accordance with the full faith and credit requirement of the FFCCSOA, Delaware must recognize and enforce the order as a valid order of the state that issued the order.

Under UIFSA, a support order or other order withholding income issued by another state may be registered and enforced in Delaware. An Affidavit and Request to Register a Foreign Support Order must be filed by the applicant, who must also attach two copies of the most recent foreign or out-of-state support order, including one that is certified by the issuing court. The court will give notice of the order’s registration in Delaware to the other party, who then has 20 days to object to the registration. If this occurs, a hearing will be held to decide the matter, otherwise the order will remain registered in Delaware.

Note that in order to enforce a foreign child support order in Delaware, a separate pleading specifically requesting enforcement of the foreign child support order must be filed in addition to the affidavit of registration. The assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney is essential in preparing these legal documents.

Noncustodial parents physically present in the State of Delaware or otherwise under the jurisdiction of Delaware courts who fail to pay this obligation are subject to enforcement measures of the Delaware Division of Child Support Enforcement (“DCSE”) to collect all such child support payments including arrearages. (Note there is no statute of limitations in Delaware for the enforcement of child support arrearages). The DCSE has a wide range of enforcement measures which include, but are not limited to, arrest, withholding of income and unemployment benefits, suspension of a driver’s license (see my earlier blog), interception of tax refunds, and passport denial.

The problem with enforcement is the obligor-spouse that makes himself or herself scarce and hard to find in a foreign jurisdiction, i.e., a state other than Delaware. Deadbeat spouses tend to make sure that they remain outside of states’ personal jurisdiction or legal authority although UIFSA and FFCCSOA have made this more difficult. At least, upon moving, a custodial parent does not have to repeat the process for obtaining an order for child support in the new jurisdiction, but only register a pre-existing order and petition the court for its enforcement. Other legal procedures, as well as federal and state parent locator services, may be used to locate an ex-spouse and seek payment.

If an ex-spouse obligated to pay child support lives in a state other than Delaware, UIFSA authorizes the enforcement of a pre-existing child support order. A parent entitled to child support may:

  • petition or ask a court in Delaware to force the former spouse to pay (but, as mentioned above, Delaware must have personal jurisdiction over the obligor ex-spouse);
  • petition or ask a court in Delaware to forward the child support order to a court in the state where the ex-spouse lives, and have that state’s courts and agencies enforce the order (a powerful enforcement tool);
  • file an enforcement request directly in the state where the obligor ex-spouse lives, or
  • forward the order to the ex-spouse’s employer, asking that the employer withhold the support amounts from the ex-spouse’s paycheck.

If you have recently moved to Delaware and have an out-of-state or foreign order for the payment of child support, you need to consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to insure that the order is registered and enforced by the state of Delaware. Schedule a consultation with Tabatha Castro today by calling (302) 225.5700.