When Not in Rome, Do as the Locals Do

When Not in Rome, Do as the Locals Do

Christopher Haugh and Gabriela Haugh were married in California and had one child – a son. However, the marriage did not last, and Gabriela was awarded child support for their son. In 2007, she and their child moved to Texas, and in 2008, Christopher requested a modification of his child support. The court modified his support obligation to $700.00 per month. In 2011, Christopher moved to Nevada, and in 2013, he asked the court to modify his child support order again. This time, Gabriela challenged the court's authority to modify the support order arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction because no one lived in California any more. The trial court agreed with Gabriela that no one lived in California, but until one of the parties actually changed the jurisdiction to another state, California had to continue its jurisdiction.

Gabriela and the California Department of Social Services (Department) appealed. Gabriela believed that as soon as everyone left the state, the state no longer had jurisdiction, and no specific request was necessary to change jurisdiction to another state. The Department also filed an appeal, based on its interpretation of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) and the Federal Full Faith and Credit Child Support Orders Act (FFFCCSOA) providing for awarding, modifying and enforcing child support orders.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) is a group of laws concerning which state should maintain control of child support orders. All of the 50 states have agreed to abide by them. The Federal Full Faith and Credit Child Support Orders Act (FFFCCSOA) was enacted by the United States Congress requiring states to honor the orders of the issuing states regarding child support.

The Appellate Court determined that the trial court misread the UIFSA and FFFCCSOA, and that no specific request to another state must be made by parties to obtain jurisdiction in the new state. As soon as all parties left the original state of jurisdiction (and no written agreement between the parties to maintain jurisdiction in the original state), that state's jurisdiction ended.

In today's world, people move all the time and order must be maintained in the best interests of the parties – and especially the children for whom the orders were issued. The UIFSA and the FFFCCSOA were designed to do just that.

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