Father [F] met Mother [M] while he was solider in the United States Air
Force and stationed in Italy. M is an Italian citizen and lived in Italy
when she met F. They married in September of 2007, and had their son [S]
in December of 2007.
When F’s deployment ended, he returned to California to attend the
California Highway Patrol Academy. M and S remained in Italy until July
of 2009 to live with F in California.
Sadly, the reuniting was not a happy one, and two months later, M moved
back to Italy with S. In Italy, she filed for divorce and requested child
and spousal support. She was granted temporary support of 1500 Euros per
month; later reduced to 400 Euros per month, and the court authorized
the spouses to live alone.
In 2013, the Italian Court granted M a decree of separation, but not a
divorce, and awarded her full custody of S. F was awarded summer and holiday
visitation and regular phone contact.
Meanwhile, in 2010, M requested that the Sacramento County Department of
Child Support Services [Department] began enforcing the temporary support
order administratively under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
[UIFSA]. F objected to the administrative enforcement of the order, and
in 2013, Department filed a “Notice of Registration of Out-of-State
Support Order” in the Sacramento County.
At the subsequent hearing to enforce the Italian order, F argued that Italy,
unlike California, “has no . . . laws detailing formulas and guidelines
the courts are to follow in setting child support and spousal support.
There is no presumption in Italy that “permanent spousal support
in a marriage lasting less than ten (10) years will only be payable for
one-half (1/2) the length of the marriage,” and there is no set
age for child support to terminate.
Countering F, Department argued that F, had the burden of proving the defenses
to registration set forth in the California Family Code, and that he had
failed to meet his burden. The Department also argued against F’s
belief that Italy was not a “state” under the UIFSA. The Department
“pointed to Italy’s accession to the International Recovery
of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance at The Hague Conference
and enactment of the Italian Private International Law Act as evidence
Italy had laws or procedures similar to UIFSA for issuance and enforcement
of support orders.”
Following the hearing the trial court decreed that F had not met his burden
that Italy was not a “state” by UIFSA standards, and that
F must pay his support obligation. F appealed.
The Appellate Court held that the UIFSA’s definition includes “a
foreign jurisdiction that has enacted a law or established procedures
for issuance and enforcement of support orders which are substantially
similar to the procedures under this chapter.”
Further, the Court held: “We construe the “substantially similar”
language in section 4901, subdivision (s)(2) to mean that a foreign country
may be deemed a state within the meaning of UIFSA if the foreign country
has laws and procedures that allow for recognition and enforcement of
a California child support order, which need not be identical to California’s
laws and procedures under UIFSA. Whether Italy has specified support guidelines
or a presumption limiting spousal support for short-term marriages is
unrelated to a determination of whether Italy has laws and procedures
that allow for recognition and enforcement of a California child support
order. Accordingly, Father’s claims related thereto, even if true,
fail to establish that Italy is not a state under UIFSA.”