How to Get an Out of State Parent to Pay Child Support
In order to get anyone for any reason into court, that court must have “jurisdiction” over the defendant. It’s not difficult for a court to have jurisdiction over an individual who lives in this state. The state’s courts could hale in any resident of the state.
A problem arises when the would-be defendant lives in another state.
Jurisdiction is loosely defined as a government’s general power to exercise authority over all persons and things within its territory. (Black’s Law Dictionary). Hence, you’ve heard the phrase “fleeing to another jurisdiction”. In the United States, each state has its own jurisdiction. A California court has no authority over a resident of the state of Utah, unless and until a Utah resident avails himself to the jurisdiction of California – which begs the question… How does one avail oneself to another state’s jurisdiction?
For purposes of child support actions, the Utah Legislature has carved out some ways that a non-resident of the state can avail herself to a Utah court. This is found in the Utah Uniform Interstate Family Act, specifically, bases for jurisdiction over non-resident. U.C.A. §78B-14- 201.
What the Family Act States:
It states, “In a proceeding to establish or enforce a support order or to determine parentage of a child, a tribunal of this state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident individual…if:
(a) The individual is personally served within this state
(b) The individual submits to the jurisdiction of this state by consent;
(c) The individual resided with the child in this state;
(d) The individual resided in this state and provided prenatal expense or support for the child;
(e) The child resides in this state as a result of the acts or directives of the individual;
(f) The individual engaged in sexual intercourse in this state and the child may have been conceived by that act of intercourse.
(g) The individual asserted parentage of a child in the putative father registry maintained in this state by the state registrar of vital records in the department of health pursuant to Title 78B-6 – Utah Adoption Act; or
(h) There is any other basis consistent with the constitutions of this state and the United States for the exercise of personal jurisdiction.”
How This Can Affect Your Case:
The first four of the list are easy. The out-of-state parent is either served within this state, indicating she is here, or she submits by consent, or otherwise resided in this state with the child, either before or after the birth of the child.
After that, the answers aren’t as straightforward. In (e), the child resides in this state as a result of the acts or directives of the individual. The following question answers this: Why is the child here? Did non-resident parent send the child to school in this state? Maybe dad just sent the child to live with grandma for the summer. Those are examples of acts or directives of the non-resident parent, which would confer jurisdiction of the state’s courts onto that individual. But, what if mom took the kids away from home in Montana and brought them here to Utah without dad’s permission? Does that confer upon Utah’s courts jurisdiction over dad? No. It was not his act or directive which brought the children here.
What about when an individual engages in sexual intercourse in this state and may possibly have conceived the child by that act? Here, the specific language of the statute is the giveaway. “[T]he child may have been conceived by that act.”
Jurisdiction exists if intercourse occurred in this state. The state does not require whether the child became conceived here.
Now, the tricky one… “Any other basis consistent with the constitutions of this state and the United States for the exercise of personal jurisdiction.” For any other purpose, in order for a court to have jurisdiction over a non-resident, that non-resident must have some contact with the forum state. The constitutional standard is “minimum contacts” – which is derived from the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The courts, applying principles derived from the United States Supreme Court, will look to whether the non-resident has any conduct which connects her to the forum state in “a meaningful way”.
That means knowing or having a relative in Utah is not enough. An out-of-state defendant has to either conduct business here, such that would impact the residents of Utah. Or, they would have to cause harm to someone here. It is not enough even to just drive through the state and buy gas. One would have to do something like that on a regular enough basis for the court to consider doing business with the residents of Utah.