Can I still collect child support even if my former spouse lives in a different state?

Yes. Here’s the legal explanation: Effective October 20, 1994, the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act prohibits a state court from modifying another state court’s child-support order unless the support recipient lives in the state that proposes to modify the order or unless the recipient consents to the modification by that state. The Act aims to establish national jurisdictional standards for child-support orders and to control how states will treat orders made in other states. Each state must enforce child-support orders that any other state has made in accordance with the section, and no state may modify another’s support order except as specifically provided in the statute.

A child-support order is consistent with the new law if the court making the order has subject-matter jurisdiction over child support under its state laws, has personal jurisdiction over the parties, and has given them reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard. A state court that has issued a child-support order consistent with the statute has exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the issue of child support for as long as the child or a party continues to live in that state, unless another state’s court has modified the order pursuant to the section.

Now that you know you can get child support enforced in another state, here’s what to do:

If you want to enforce your child support order in another state, you simply contact that Child Support Services Department in the County in which your former spouse resides, and register your child support order with them. They will, in turn, enforce the child support order at no cost to you. Enforcement may include wage assignments, wage garnishments, tax levies, bank account levies, driver’s and professional license suspensions, and criminal prosecution.

Regardless of whether you have a child support order in place or are seeking an initial child support order, it is in your child’s best interests for you to do a little research: Speak with a family law attorney both in your state and in your former spouse’s state to see which state’s child support laws provide your child with the best child support orders for you, e.g. amount, duration, add-ons to the base amount, etc. If the state your former spouse is in has better child support laws, you may consider having that state take over jurisdiction.


By John A. Lazor, CFLS*

This FAQ was first published in Divorce Magazine and is reprinted with their permission.