DATE: May 28, 2002
TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT, TRIBES AND TRIBAL ORGANIZATIONS, AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS
SUBJECT: Clarifying the Applicability of the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (FFCCSOA) to States and Tribes.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this action transmittal is to inform states and tribes of provisions of the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (FFCCSOA) and their application to both jurisdictions.
Congress enacted FFCCSOA (28 U.S.C. 1738B) in 1994 because of concerns about the growing number of child support cases involving disputes between parents who live in different states and the ease with which noncustodial parents could reduce the amount of the obligation or evade enforcement by moving across state lines. FFCCSOA requires courts of all United States territories, states and tribes to accord full faith and credit to a child support order issued by another state or tribe that properly exercised jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter.
Congress amended FFCCSOA in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to be consistent with the requirements of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) regarding which of several existing orders prospectively controls the current support obligation, as well as UIFSA’s choice of law provisions. Most of the provisions regarding modification of orders in FFCCSOA and UIFSA are consistent as well. While tribes are not obliged to enact UIFSA as a condition of receipt of Federal funding of their child support enforcement programs operated under title IV-D of the Social Security Act, states are obligated to do so.
FFCCSOA addresses the need to determine, in cases with more than one child support order issued for the same obligor and child, which order to recognize for purposes of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction and enforcement.
Definitions applicable to FFCCSOA appear in section 1738B(b). FFCCSOA defines "state" to include "Indian country" as this term is defined in 18 U.S.C. section 1151. This means that wherever the term state is used in the Act, it includes tribe as well. "Court" is defined as "a court or administrative agency of a state [or tribe] that is authorized by state [or tribal] law to establish the amount of child support payable by a contestant or make a modification of a child support order."
Provisions of the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act
General Rule: FFCCSOA section 1738B(a) provides that the appropriate authority in each state and tribe shall enforce a child support order made consistent with the provisions of FFCCSOA in another state or tribe according to its terms and that a state or tribal court may not modify an order of another state or tribal court except in accordance with subsections (e), (f) and (i) of FFCCSOA. Where a state or tribal court or administrative agency issues an order that is consistent with FFCCSOA the order must be recognized and enforced by other states and tribes.
Requirements of Child Support Orders: Section 1738B(c) of FFCCSOA contains the requirements of child support orders. In order for a child support order to be consistent with FFCCSOA, a court with subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over the contestants must have issued it. Additionally, the contestants must have been given reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard.
Continuing Jurisdiction: Section 1738B(d) of FFCCSOA contains the provisions on continuing jurisdiction. A state or tribe has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over an order issued by a court of that state or tribe if the state or tribe is the child’s residence or the residence of any individual contestant unless the court of another state or tribe, acting in accordance with subsections (e) and (f) has modified the order.
Recognition of Child Support Orders: Section 1738B(f) contains the provisions for determining the order recognized for continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. Both FFCCSOA and UIFSA have consistent rules for determining which order is the single effective order entitled to prospective enforcement when multiple orders exist. The rules are:
"If one or more child support orders have been issued with regard to an obligor and a child, a court shall apply the following rules in determining which order to recognize for purposes of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction and enforcement:
(1) If only one court has issued a child support order, the order of that court must be recognized.
(2) If two or more courts have issued child support orders for the same obligor and child, and only one of the courts would have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under this section, the order of that court must be recognized.
(3) If two or more courts have issued child support orders for the same obligor and child, and more than one of the courts would have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under this section, an order issued by a court in the current home state of the child must be recognized, but if an order has not been issued in the current home state of the child, the order most recently issued must be recognized.
(4) If two or more courts have issued child support orders for the same obligor and child, and none of the courts would have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under this section, a court having jurisdiction over the parties shall issue a child support order, which must be recognized.
(5) The court that has issued an order recognized under this subsection is the court having continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under subsection (d)."
Authority to Modify Orders: A state or tribe may modify its own order as long as it has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. The authority to modify the child support order of another state or tribe under FFCCSOA is found at section 1738B(e). Under this section, a state or tribal court may modify the order of another state or tribe if it has jurisdiction and the issuing state or tribe no longer has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction or if each individual contestant files written consent with the state or tribe of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. FFCCSOA prohibits a state or tribe from modifying an existing order issued by another state or tribal court, unless these criteria are met.
Enforcement of Modified Orders: Section 1738B(g) of FFCCSOA contains the enforcement provision. If a state or tribe no longer has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction it may enforce the nonmodifiable aspects of the order and collect on arrearages that accrued before the date on which the order was modified under subsections (e) and (f).
Choice of Law: Section 1738B(h) contains FFCCSOA’s choice of law provision. In a proceeding to establish, modify, or enforce a child support order, the law of the forum state or tribe applies. As an exception to this rule, courts must apply the law of the state or tribe that issued the order when interpreting the order’s obligations, such as the amount and duration of support payments. In a proceeding for arrearages, the statute of limitations under the laws of the forum state or tribe or the issuing state or tribe, whichever is longer, applies.
Registration for Modification: Section 1738B(i) contains FFCCSOA’s registration for modification provision. If all of the individual contestants have left the issuing state or Indian country, the contestant seeking to modify an order issued in another state or tribe must register that order in a state or tribe with jurisdiction over the nonmoving contestant for purposes of modification. Either a state IV-D agency or a tribal CSE agency may be a party who is seeking to modify and enforce an order under this subsection.
RELATED REFERENCES: For further information on determining which order is entitled to prospective enforcement in cases with more than one order, consult OCSE-IM-01-02 which issued a TEMPO on determining controlling orders and DCL-00-64 which provided material and resources to help states and tribes make determinations of controlling order.
INQUIRIES TO: ACF Regional Administrators
ATTACHMENT: 28 U.S.C. 1738B
Sherri Z. Heller, Ed.D.
Office of Child Support Enforcement