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Electronic Documents and Tribunals under UIFSA Section 316

PIQ-18-01

Published: April 26, 2018

POLICY INTERPRETATION QUESTIONS

PIQ-18-01

DATE:  April 26, 2018

TO: State IV-D Directors

FROM: Scott M. Lekan, Commissioner, Office of Child Support Enforcement

SUBJECT: Electronic documents and tribunals under UIFSA section 316

State IV-D agencies have requested clarification on tribunal requirements under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) 2008 for accepting evidentiary documents that may have been transmitted electronically by another state.

Question 1: Must tribunals accept as evidence documents from outside the state transmitted to the tribunal electronically, such as through EDE?

Answer 1: Section 316 of UIFSA provides “special rules of evidence and procedure” to address unique evidentiary challenges in interstate child support enforcement by incorporating modern methods for gathering and submitting relevant evidence to a tribunal. With respect to documentary evidence, section 316(e) of UIFSA establishes a special rule for interstate child support cases requiring that original records from outside the state, transmitted electronically to the tribunal, may not be excluded from evidence on an objection based solely on the means of transmission. This rule includes original signatures as part of the original record. As stated in the comment to subsections 316(b) – (f) of UIFSA 2008, “these subsections provide exceptions to the otherwise guiding principle of UIFSA, i.e., local procedural and substantive law should apply. Because the out-of-state party, and that party’s witnesses, necessarily do not ordinarily appear in person at the hearing, deviation from the ordinary rules of evidence is justified in order to assure that the tribunal will have available to it the maximum amount of information on which to base its decision. The intent throughout these subsections is to eliminate by statute as many potential hearsay problems as possible in interstate litigation, with the goal of providing each party with the means to present evidence, even if not physically present.”

While the special rules of section 316 establish exceptions to normal judiciary procedures for evidence, the principle should be familiar to tribunals, as it has been part of UIFSA since 1996. In addition, as more courts adopt e-filing of case documents, electronically transmitted documents are becoming the norm in litigation. All other appropriate objections to documentary evidence remain in effect and are governed by local law, including local rules of evidence. The special rules of evidence and procedure in section 316 of UIFSA apply to courts and administrative agencies that are designated as “tribunals” of the state under section 103 of UIFSA.

Question 2: Does section 316(e) of UIFSA apply to certified copies of orders for registration under UIFSA 602?

Answer 2: UIFSA section 316(e) does not distinguish between certified copies of orders and other types of documentary evidence. Therefore, in accordance with section 316(e), the tribunal may not exclude an electronically transmitted certified copy of an order from evidence based solely on the means of transmission. However, if objections about the authenticity of the documents are raised in the course of a proceeding, the tribunal may require submission of original documents, original certified copies, or other evidence of authenticity under state law.

INQUIRIES: Division of Policy and Training; ocse.dpt@acf.hhs.gov

Last Reviewed: April 26, 2018

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