2012 Kansas Legislature Will Consider UIFSA 2008

2012 Kansas Legislature Will Consider UIFSA 2008

The Kansas Judicial Council has recommended that the Kansas Legislature enact the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act 2008 Amendments. Following up on the reorganization of Kansas Domestic Relations laws in the 2011 Legislative Session, the Kansas Judicial Council has recommended that the Kansas Legislature enact amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, recommended by the Uniform Laws Commission and ratified by the American Bar Association.

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act was originally enacted into Kansas law in 1995. At the time, it was seen as a major advance in the establishment and enforcement of family support (child support and spousal support) within the United States because of its ‘one order at one time’ rule. Before enactment of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, although one state may determine the support owed between parents and spouses, another state could make a completely new – and different – support order than the first state. UIFSA’s most revolutionary concept is its “one-order system” to resolve the problems associated with URESA’s multiple orders. Under UIFSA, once a support order is entered, that order controls the child support obligation regardless of whether the parents or child later move to another state. This “one order” is called the Controlling Order. UIFSA established rules that require every state to defer to the child support orders entered by the state that first properly enters child support or spousal support orders. The state in which that initial order is entered has ‘continuing, exclusive jurisdiction’ (CEJ) over those support orders, and only the law of that state can be applied to requests to modify the support order after the entry of that initial order – unless the original state loses its continuing exclusive jurisdiction under the explicit provisions of UIFSA (and even then, the durational aspects imposed by the original state continue until the completion of all support obligations).

In 1996, Congress mandated that all States and Territories within the United States adopt the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act as it had been recommended for approval by the Uniform Laws Commission and the American Bar Association in 1996. This was to make support obligations and enforcement uniform throughout the United States. Following Congressional mandate, Kansas revised its version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act in 1996.

In 2001, the Uniform Laws Commission made further changes to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. These amendments were suggested by the child-support community and led to significant substantive and procedural amendments. But none of these amendments made any fundamental change to the policies or procedures established by UIFSA 1996. Instead, the 2001 amendments were sought to make UIFSA more efficient and to recognize that all U.S. States had enacted the uniform law. The changes did, however, clarify that only one state could ever have jurisdiction to make or modify any support order, and that any other state must recognize that order as the governing order, enforcing it only.  And, to accommodate the new world of bilateral orders on the federal level, UIFSA 2001 redefined the term “state” to include foreign countries with a bilateral agreement with the United States as well as actual ‘States’ within the United States. In addition, UIFSA 2001: (1) clarified that the jurisdictional rules within UIFSA limit the ability of parties to seek modifications of orders in states other than the issuing state, (2) specify how a controlling order is determined and reconciled if multiple orders are issued, (3) clarifies that the jurisdictional basis for the issuance of support orders and child custody jurisdiction are separate, and (4) expands UIFSA to include coverage of support orders from foreign country jurisdictions pursuant to reciprocity and comity principles.

UIFSA 2001 formed the basis for negotiations – and agreement – between other countries. Between 1998 and 2008, the United States entered into bilateral agreements with thirteen nations and eleven Canadian provinces to assure that support orders from the United States would be recognized and enforced in those places (and orders from those places would be enforced in the United States).

Beginning in June 2003 – and continuing through November 2007 – more than 70 countries met at The Hague, Netherlands, to negotiate the Hague Convention on the Enforcement of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, which used the principles established in the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act as a basis for the establishment, enforcement, and limitations on modification, in the Convention. The Convention was signed by the United States at The Hague, Netherlands, on November 23, 2007, and it was ratified by the United States Senate on September 29, 2010.

As a result of the signing of the Hague Convention on Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, the Uniform Laws Commission again revised UIFSA in 2008. The Amendments to UIFSA in 2008 are limited only to those changes required for compliance with the Convention. Articles 1-6 are modified to include foreign support orders when procedures for handling Convention cases would be the same as in current UIFSA procedures for domestic cases. And a new Article 7 applies only to international cases, addressing requirements unique to the Convention (such as providing reasons to refuse recognition of a foreign support order).

It is expected that Congress will require that all states enact UIFSA 2008 before 2014. And by enacting these changes before the mandate issued by Congress, Kansas will be in the forefront of states and will assure that its child support orders will be recognized and enforced throughout the world.