Monday, February 23, 2015

Can You Modify a Child Support Order From Another State?

It is very common for parents to move to another state some time after a court issues a child support order.  The question then arises as to whether or not that parent's new home state can modify the existing child support order. On February 23, 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision on Cohen v. Cohen,  which explains Massachusetts courts' jurisdiction over existing child support orders and whether or not those orders can be modified here.

Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), Massachusetts has the power to enforce child support orders from other states. However, it cannot modify an order if the state issuing the child support order still has continuing and exclusive jurisdiction. To know whether or not the issuing state has continuing and exclusive jurisdiction, you must ask 2 questions:  First, does either parent or the child still reside in the issuing state? Second, if at least one of them still lives in the issuing state, have the parties provided written consent for Massachusetts to take over jurisdiction?

In Cohen, the parties had a child support order out of California. While the Father eventually moved to Massachusetts, the Mother and child remained in California. As such, California retained exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over the child support order. The SJC found that, although Massachusetts had the power to enforce the California child support order (by having the Massachusetts Department of Revenue garnish the Father's wages and by ordering attorney's fees for the Husband's failure to comply with the order) Massachusetts did not have the power to modify the order. For example, a Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts had changed the original order to include payment for uninsured medical expenses and college tuition, which was wrong.

If you have questions about an existing child support order, please contact Attorney Leila Wons to discuss your options and review your matter.

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