In a case of first impression, the Illinois Appellate Court has now decided where a child support modification case must proceed when the parents live in different states.
The increasing mobility of our society often creates jurisdictional contests when one or both parents relocate after a divorce and one of them initiates litigation over child support. Where should a child support recipient file a petition for modification of support when the parents live in different states? Consider the following example: A couple marries in State A and later moves to State B. While residing in State B, they have a child. Some time later, the couple decides to dissolve their marriage in State B. Thereafter, the child support recipient under State B’s judgment for dissolution of marriage moves back to State A with the child and wishes to seek an increase in child support. The child support payor remains in State B. Where is the proper forum for the parent to seek a modification, State A or State B? In a case of first impression, the Illinois Appellate in In re the Marriage of Vailas, 2010 WL 4643634 (Ill. App. 1 Dist, Nov. 16, 2010), clarified the analysis that must take place under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to answer that very question.
At issue in the Vailas case was whether the trial court in Illinois (State A, in the example above) had jurisdiction to modify a child support order originally entered by Texas (State B, in the example above) when the payor father remained a resident of Texas. The trial court ruled that Illinois obtained both subject matter and personal jurisdiction because the mother personally served the father with her Petition for an Increase in Support while he visited with his son in Illinois. However, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s ruling and held that personal service alone does not vest the court with jurisdiction to modify the Texas order.
For the first time in Illinois, the Court interpreted Sections 201 and 611 of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) and their application in a child support modification proceeding. Drafted by the National Conference on Uniform State Laws, UIFSA was the solution of the jurisdictional and competing order contests that arise in multi-state family support enforcement and modification litigation. In 1996, Congress mandated adoption of the statute by all states that wanted to receive federal funding for child support programs, and by 1998, every state had enacted it. The purpose of the statute was to give the state courts uniform rules to follow so as to prevent multiple, often competing child support orders entered by different states.