RURESA AND UIFSA...
WHAT DO THESE "LETTERS" MEAN AND
HOW DOES IT EFFECT ME?
(But I paid my child support and they
still want more...)
As part of the Welfare Reform Act of 1997, UIFSA (Uniform
Interstate Family Support Act) was made A FEDERAL law. California adopted UIFSA and
replaced URESA/RURESA on 1/1/98. It applies to both Welfare (AFDC) and child
support cases filed by both the DA/Bureau and private
fifty states, most territories and Washington DC have all adopted UIFSA.
URESA was nationwide act that now provides that each state which adopted it can enforce another states support orders without registration. The 1950 act, URESA, short for Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act as well as "RURESA", the 1968 amendment, (short for Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act) were the prior laws.. By 1992, all US states had enacted RURESA or
A January 1992 US General Accounting Report concluded that 30% of all child support cases are interstate (meaning that the
non-custodial parent and the child live in two different states) and that children in interstate cases are less likely than
in-state children to receive child support payments. These collection problems were primarily caused by the time limits involved by registration of orders between states, and most states reluctance to enforce an out of state Wage Assignment without procedural due process (14th Amendment) safeguards to insure that the Wage Assignment was valid. Transient parents who could work the system knew that they had a year time period at a minimum before the out of state order would catch up with them. Due to the public opinion and outcry for Welfare Reform, the Feds decided to step in and sponsored another revision to RURESA or the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or "UIFSA".
One of the greatest failings of URESA was the latitude left
to individual state legislators to amend the uniform act, while adopting other parts of
it. In addition, RURESA or URESA petitions took time: four to eight months. URESA/RURESA
applications require considerably more paper and administration than do UIFSA
applications. One lawyer said that filing a RURESA or URESA action was like sending the
case "into a black hole."
UIFSA was supposed to also answer the "choice of law" problems that arose when orders from one state were sent for enforcement in a "sister state." For example, California charges 10% interest per year on child support arrears, compounded simply. Washington state, at press time, had no interest provision. So, if a California order was registered in Washington State, interest usually got left off, cause Washington does not recognize interest. If a Washington State order got registered in California, interest suddenly was calculated. UIFSA settles that issue for once and for all: it is the law of the original state that applies.
UIFSA also answers the question of which state among two has the power to modify an order for child support when the parents live in two different states. California makes a child support order in 1996. Mom is the custodial parent (the obligee under UIFSA terminology) and Dad is the
payer (obligor in UIFSA language). Mom and child move to Florida in 1997. Dad moves to New Jersey in 1998. California, under UIFSA, looses any jurisdiction to modify its own order when the second parent moved out of state, unless all of the parent consented in writing to California having modification jurisdiction. California does retain enforcement jurisdiction, which means that a
California Wage assignment for the old amount of child support, and any arrears there on, is valid. If however, Dad stayed in California, then California retains both modification jurisdiction for so long as Dad is a resident and enforcement jurisdiction, since it never lost it. If Dad was person who moved, but Mom (and child) stayed behind in CA, California would still have not only enforcement jurisdiction but modification jurisdiction since Mom (and child) remained. Because Father was originally a resident of California at the time of the initial order, or consented to "personal jurisdiction" California retains the ability to modify this order provided that at least one parent is still here. There is no "procedural due process" claim because by agreeing to California having "initial" personal jurisdiction over them, the parties also consented to continuing exclusive jurisdiction until all have moved out of the jurisdiction.
Probably one of the most important provisions of UIFSA is the adoption now in all 50 states of the same "Federal" Wage assignment form, beginning in July 2000. So, a wage assignment from California looks the same (or will by years end when it is mandatory) as a wage assignment issued by the Florida Court, and an employer in New Jersey will now have to honor it. If not, then the employer gets to answer to Federal Court jurisdiction and some severe
UIFSA is also the way that the State Department gets to suspend your passport if you now owe any past due child support (note the new "any" arrears and not $5000 threshold arrears as was the law prior to 1/2001). Unfortunately, UIFSA does not provide for any federal court intervention if more than one state reports you as delinquent. You then have to go back to each state court that reported you delinquent and get this mess straightened out.
The problem with UIFSA is that there is no uniform nationwide rules about:
Driver's license suspension;
Professional license suspensions;
Interest to be charged on child support arrears;
The time rules on contesting the validity of a wage assignment
At what age child support terminates and
The statute of limitations on the collection of past due child support.
Some states have a very simple and informal procedure for getting your driver's license reinstated. (Think Wyoming) Other states have no suspension rules (but they are now few and far between... Maybe Utah and Montana unless they joined the majority). Still others have no interest (Washington comes to mind) and a few have a statute of limitation for the collection of past due child support (Texas?).
We also still have the problem that there are at least nine states that provide that a child going to college full time may be entitled to child support until graduation, age 21 or 22. These include Colorado, Indiana, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Most states, California, provided that child support terminates at the 18th
birth date, unless the child is still enrolled in high school full time, and then terminates on high school graduation, dropping out of school, or the 19th
birth date, whichever occurs first. Other states, provide that child support terminates at age 17 if not enrolled in high school, or age 18 even if enrolled in high school full time.
Unfortunately for those of you who reside in California,
The license reinstatement procedure is complicated unless you are fortunate to live in a small rural community;
Ditto for the professional license;
We have ten percent interest,
Only 10 days to contest a wage assignment, and then very narrow grounds to contest the validity of it (not to mention the 45 day back log most clerk's have on setting these hearings); and
No statute of limitations for the collection of past due child support, but the defense of laches may still be raised in non-welfare cases.
At least we don't have a college clause.....
So if you are faced with a UIFSA case, you will need to become a fast learner of legal research on the web, or hire attorneys in more than one state.
Family Law in California
Marsha Baucom holds degrees in Psychology, and Family Law and has been
practicing as a Licensed California Family Law Attorney representing
thousands of clients for over a decade.
She is respected by her peers, and clients that have enjoyed the
benefits of her legal representation.
This is experience you can count on.