Relationship Between Child Custody and Child Support in Arizona
Arizona law includes the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act. That law is intended to allow parents in one state to obtain and enforce child support orders in another state. Can a parent who has absconded with the child get a child support order against the custodial parent in Arizona? The Court of Appeals considered this issue in Campbell v. Campbell, 617 P. 2d 66 (1980).
Facts of the Case
Mrs. Campbell and Mr. Campbell married, had one child, and then divorced. The Arizona divorce court awarded custody to Mr. Campbell. However, Mrs. Campbell kept the child in California and refused to give her to Mr. Campbell. She sued for child support from Mr. Campbell. The trial court denied her child support and she appealed.
Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act
Arizona has adopted the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA). This uniform act provides that a custodial parent may enforce a child support obligation. A state providing the child financial support can also enforce the obligation. It is under this act that Mrs. Campbell seeks child support.
Mrs. Campbell admits that the Arizona court awarded Mr. Campbell custody and has not attacked the validity of that order. However, she argues that the custody is not dispositive under the uniform act. She claims that the intent of the uniform law is to enforce child support duties without regard to custodial interference. The Court of Appeals disagreed.
It agreed that Mrs. Campbell’s position may be true in a limited sense. It may apply in an enforcement action by a custodial parent who has interfered with the other parent’s visitation rights. The Court found no suggestion that a noncustodial parent’s interference with custody can create a support obligation.
Noncustodial Parent Interfering with Custody Lacks Standing to Sue
The Court held that Mrs. Campbell does not have standing to invoke URESA remedies on behalf of her minor child. It took care to emphasize that Mr. Campbell’s duty to provide support continued, despite Ann’s interference with custody. However, proceedings under URESA are purely statutory. Arizona courts only have that authority URESA gives them to determine and enforce child support.
That said, any request for support under URESA is subject to the procedural safeguards in that law. Its provisions only allow enforcement by a custodial parent or a state providing financial support to the child. Mrs. Campbell is simply not a proper party to attempt to enforce Mr. Campbell’s obligation to support his child here. His duty to pay child support to Mrs. Campbell must be determined by the laws of this state. She must obtain a modification of the Arizona order or otherwise get legal custody before she can sue for support.