In this ever transient society, it is possible that a person seeking enforcement of a support order in New Jersey, whether child support or alimony, may have obtained that order in another state.
In an effort to have uniformity among all the States in the United States, each State has adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which establishes the method to enforce a support order when one or both parties have moved from the State of initial jurisdiction. UIFSA also establishes rules for modifying support orders.
If you have moved to New Jersey from another State and either have a support order or Judgment of Divorce which encompasses child support and/or alimony, you should register that foreign order in this State with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part. Registration can also be done by sending the appropriate documents to a New Jersey support enforcement agency (i.e., the Probation Department).
New Jersey’s statute, which codifies UIFSA, requires that certain documents and information be obtained before registration of the foreign court order can be proper. Upon receipt of those documents, the order will be filed as a foreign judgment. When that order is registered, the registering tribunal notifies the non-registering party. Notice is to be accompanied by a copy of the registered order, as well as the documents and relevant information that accompanied that order. The non-registering party then has 20 days after the date of mailing or personal service of the notice to request a hearing to contest the validity or enforcement of that registered order. If the non-registering party fails to contest the validity or enforcement of the registered order in a timely manner, the order is confirmed by operation of law.
Once registered, if the other party is not complying with his or her obligations of support, the registering party could then file a Complaint or comparable pleading for the relief needed, such as enforcement of that order. In order for New Jersey Courts to have jurisdiction over the obligor, either the child must reside in New Jersey as a result of the acts or directives of that individual or that obligor must be a resident of New Jersey. If the obligor is a non-resident, that individual (1) must be personally served with the pleadings in New Jersey, (2) must submit to New Jersey jurisdiction by consent, or (3) must have resided with the child in New Jersey.
Even if a New Jersey Court has the power to enforce an out-of-state order, it may not necessarily modify that order. In a recent New Jersey Appellate Court case, the parties were married, had two children and were divorced in Pennsylvania in 1999. A child support order was entered in Pennsylvania at that time. Some time later, both parties and the children moved to New Jersey. In June of 2002, the parties signed a Consent Order in New Jersey that recalculated child support for the younger child since the older child was going to be emancipated (pursuant to Pennsylvania law). Also in June of 2002, a Pennsylvania Court issued an Order emancipating the older child who had turned 18.
When the younger child turned 18 and graduated from high school, the Defendant/Father filed a Motion in New Jersey to have that child declared emancipated. The Plaintiff/Wife filed a Cross-Motion seeking to un-emancipate the older child and to require contribution by the Defendant to both children=s college education expenses pursuant to New Jersey law.
The Appellate Division in this case held that New Jersey Courts cannot modify the Pennsylvania child support order by requiring the Defendant to pay the children’s college education expenses since the law of the issuing state (Pennsylvania) governs the nature, extent, amount, and duration of current payments and other obligations of support under the order. Since Pennsylvania law governs, even though the children and the parties live in New Jersey, a New Jersey Court could not modify this support order.
New Jersey’s version of UIFSA contains many rules involving what authority the initiating state court has verses the responding state (the current state of residence). There are also rules for determining the order of recognition when multiple orders have been entered by different states.
If you have a foreign support order and need it enforced in New Jersey, New Jersey’s adaptation of UIFSA is your blueprint.