Enforcing a Child Support Order from Another State in Arizona
Many people move to Arizona from other states. They sometimes arrive in Arizona with a child support order from the state from which they moved. They also may have a need to enforce that child support order in Arizona.
The procedure to enforce a child support order from another state in Arizona requires a parent to properly register that foreign state’s child support order in the Superior Court following the specific requirements set forth Arizona’s version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.
However, not everyone correctly domesticates the foreign child support correctly. What effect does an error in registering a foreign state’s child support order have upon a parent’s ability to enforce that child support order in Arizona? Well, the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of Balazic v. Balazic answered that question.
Domesticating a Child Support Order from Another State
In the Balazic case, the court referenced the prior case of Glover v. Glover where it held that an error in properly domesticating another’s state’s child support order under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act meant a judge did not have “jurisdiction” or authority to modify a child support order from another state.
However, the question, in this case, is not whether a court has the authority to modify the child support order from another state but, instead, whether an Arizona court can enforce a child support order from another state when that order was not properly domesticated in Arizona.
In this case, Mother and Father were divorced in North Carolina. Their divorce decree required Father to pay Mother child support for their children. Mother later moved to Arizona and Father moved to Pennsylvania, so neither parent continued to live in the state that issued the child support order.
Mother attempted to domesticate the North Carolina child support order in Arizona. She subsequently filed a petition to enforce the child support order with the court. Father was served with the petition to enforce and filed a motion to continue the first hearing, which was granted by the court. Father then failed to appear at the rescheduled hearing and the court entered a judgment against him for $128,681.26 in back child support.
About a year and a half later, Father filed a motion to set aside the judgment against him on the basis that the court did not have jurisdiction to enforce the North Carolina child support order because Mother did not follow the requirements of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.
He cited the Glover case, mentioned above, in support of his request. The trial court held a hearing and denied Father’s request to vacate the child support judgment against him. Father filed to appeal that decision.
The Court of Appeals concluded that Mother failed to follow all of the procedures in the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act when she registered the North Carolina child support order in Arizona. The court noted that Father failed to file an objection pointing out the delinquencies in Mother’s registration of the North Carolina order in Arizona until eighteen months after the judgment was entered against him.
Father is not able to overturn the judgment as a result; unless Mother errors are not considered to be simply a procedural error but, instead, a jurisdictional error. The court noted a procedural error can be waived by Father failing to file a timely objection to the domestication of the order whereas a jurisdictional error can never be waived and can be raised at any time.
Procedural Error Versus Jurisdictional Error
The Court of Appeals concluded it could justify treating this error as a procedural error because there is a big difference between modifying a child support order from another state and enforcing a child support order from another state. Modifying child support from another state directly impacts the purpose of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.
That Act was made into law in Arizona to avoid two states issuing two conflicting child support orders. There is no risk in an enforcement of a child support case of there being conflicting child support orders in two states, so the error is more procedural in nature.
The court in analyzing the statutes found that the legislature included the term jurisdiction in the statutes dealing with modification of child support under the Act. The provisions pertaining to the enforcement of child support under the Act do not contain the word jurisdiction; further supporting the Court of Appeals’ decision in this case.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about the effect of errors in registering a child support order in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child support laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a child support case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.