PA 15-71—sHB 6973

Human Services Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT ADOPTING THE UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT OF 2008

SUMMARY: This act updates Connecticut's Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) by incorporating 2008 revisions (1) recommended by the National Council of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws and (2) required by federal law (P. L. 113-183) to remain eligible for continued federal IV-D funding for child support enforcement (see BACKGROUND). UIFSA generally establishes rules for determining which order controls when two or more jurisdictions issue conflicting support or modification orders for the same parties. The 2008 revisions incorporate provisions from the Hague Maintenance Convention, which standardized processes for handling child support cases involving parties from different countries (see BACKGROUND).

The act repeals Connecticut's former UIFSA and replaces it with similar provisions. It makes several existing procedures for child support orders issued out-of-state or to parties residing out-of-state applicable to orders issued in a foreign country or parties residing in a foreign country. It also makes several associated conforming changes, including changes to provisions that govern child support and parentage proceedings, support services and enforcement, and income withholding ( 1-78 & 94). Among the other changes it makes to UIFSA, the act:

1. adds several new definitions to conform to the 2008 revisions ( 2);

2. replaces, throughout UIFSA, references to (1) “paternity” with “parentage of a child” and (2) “family support magistrate” and “Family Support Magistrate Division (FSMD) of the Superior Court” with “tribunal”;

3. broadens the state tribunals' (i. e. , the Superior Court and its FSMD) authority to modify child support orders ( 55);

4. requires tribunals to adhere to UIFSA for support proceedings involving a foreign (a) support order; (b) tribunal; or (c) resident who is an obligee, obligor, or child in the proceedings ( 5);

5. adds provisions to UIFSA that directly address how the Superior Court and Department of Social Services' Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) must handle (a) support orders issued in a country that is a Convention signatory and (b) foreign support agreements ( 61 – 73);

6. establishes that the BCSE and the Superior Court's Support Enforcement Services (SES) are the state's support enforcement agencies ( 3);

7. adds provisions to UIFSA pertaining to attorney's fees ( 29);

8. requires SES, in UIFSA-related proceedings, to (a) perform clerical, administrative, and other nonjudicial functions on FSMD's behalf; (b) maintain a registry of support orders and judgments; and (c) help BCSE to perform its functions when handling Convention support orders and foreign support agreements ( 89);

9. specifies that if the Chief Court Administrator determines that SES is neglecting or refusing to provide services to an individual, he must order the agency to perform its duties ( 24); and

10. specifies that the act's provisions are severable (i. e. , if any provision or its application is found to be invalid, the invalidity does not affect the rest of the act) ( 78).

The act also makes technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015

2 – DEFINITIONS

New Definitions

Under the act:

1. “Convention” means the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, which concluded at the Hague on November 23, 2007;

2. “foreign country” means a country or a country's political subdivision, other than the United States, that authorizes the issuance of support orders and (a) has been declared under federal law to be a foreign reciprocating country, (b) has established a reciprocal arrangement for child support with Connecticut, (c) has enacted a law or established procedures for issuing and enforcing support orders substantially similar to UIFSA, or (d) in which the Convention is in force with respect to the United States; and

3. “foreign tribunal” means a foreign country's court, administrative agency, or quasi-judicial entity, including a competent authority under the Convention, authorized to establish, enforce, or modify support orders to determine a child's parentage.

Initiating and Responding Tribunals

The law authorizes tribunals to act as either initiating or responding tribunals in proceedings to establish, enforce, or modify support orders or to determine parentage. By law, the tribunal that requests another state's assistance is the initiating tribunal, and the tribunal that provides the assistance is the responding tribunal. To conform with the 2008 revisions, the act broadens the definition of “initiating tribunal” and “responding tribunal” to include tribunals that request assistance from or provide assistance to a foreign country.

29 – ATTORNEY FEES

Under UIFSA, if a party seeking child support (obligee) prevails, a tribunal may assess, among other costs, reasonable attorney's fees against the party who must pay the support (obligor). UIFSA prohibits a tribunal from assessing the costs against the obligee, except as provided by other law. The act additionally prohibits the tribunal from assessing those costs against the support enforcement agency of the initiating or responding state or foreign country, except as provided by other law.

The act also specifies that attorney's fees may be taxed as costs, and may be ordered paid directly to the attorney, who may enforce the order in his or her name. Under the act, child support payment takes priority over those fees and other costs and expenses.

Additionally, if a tribunal determines that a hearing was requested primarily for delay, the act requires the tribunal to order the party who requested it to pay costs and reasonable attorney's fees. In non-Convention proceedings, a hearing is presumed to have been requested primarily for delay if a registered support order is conformed or enforced without change.

55, 58, & 60 – ORDER MODIFICATION

The law allows a tribunal to modify another state's child support order registered in Connecticut if (1) the parties live in Connecticut and the child (who need not live here) does not live in the state that issued the order or (2) at least one party or child lives in Connecticut and the parties consent in the issuing state to transfer the case to Connecticut. The act also allows a tribunal to modify an order it issued if one party resides in Connecticut and the other resides outside the United States.

Under the act, a party that obtains a modification must file a certified copy of the modified order with the issuing tribunal that had jurisdiction over the earlier order within 30 days after the modification is issued. A party that fails to file the certified copy is subject to sanctions by the tribunal in which the issue of the failure to file arises. Failure to file does not affect the modified order's validity or enforceability.

In the case of a foreign child support order that is not under the Hague Convention (i. e. , issued by a country that is not a signatory to the Convention), the act allows a party or support enforcement agency seeking to modify, or modify and enforce, to register the order in Connecticut if it has not already been registered. The party or agency may make a motion for modification at the same time it registers the order or at another time. The motion must specify the grounds for modification.

The act also specifies that a Connecticut tribunal retains jurisdiction to modify an order it issued if one party resides in another state and the other party resides outside the United States.

61-73 – CONVENTION SUPPORT PROCEEDINGS

Sections 61 through 73 of the act apply only to support proceedings initiated under the Convention. The act specifies that these provisions control in such proceedings even if a provision is inconsistent with another part of UIFSA.

63 & 64 – Convention Procedures

In a Convention support proceeding, the act gives BCSE the authority to (1) transmit and receive applications and (2) initiate or facilitate the establishment of a proceeding on an application in a tribunal in Connecticut. The act also establishes procedures for obligees and obligors to follow in Convention proceedings.

Obligee. The following procedures are available to an obligee under the Hague Convention:

1. recognition or recognition and enforcement of foreign support orders;

2. enforcement of a support order issued or recognized in Connecticut;

3. establishment of a support order if there is no existing order, including, if necessary, determination of a child's parentage; and

4. modification of a Connecticut tribunal's support order or such an order from another state's or foreign country's tribunal.

Under the Convention, obligees are also able to seek a new support order if the court refuses to recognize a foreign support order because (1) the issuing tribunal lacked personal jurisdiction and (2) the order was obtained by fraud in connection with a procedural matter.

Obligees may also seek a new support order if a court refuses to recognize a foreign order in a case in which the respondent did not appear or was not represented in the issuing foreign country's proceedings and:

1. if the law of that country provides for prior notice of proceedings, the respondent did not have proper notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard or

2. if the law of the country does not provide for prior notice of proceedings, the respondent did not have proper notice of the order and an opportunity to be heard in a challenge or appeal on the facts or law before a tribunal.

Obligor. The following procedures are available under the Convention to an obligor under an existing support order:

1. recognition of an order suspending or limiting enforcement of an existing support order from a Connecticut tribunal and

2. modification of an order from a tribunal in Connecticut, another state, or a foreign country.

Additionally, in proceedings under the Convention, a tribunal may not require a security, bond, or deposit to guarantee payment of associated costs and expenses.

65 – Direct Requests

Under the act, a “direct request” is a petition filed by an individual in a Connecticut tribunal proceeding involving an obligee, obligor, or child residing outside the United States.

Establishment or Modification. The act allows a petitioner to file with a tribunal a direct request seeking establishment or modification of a support order or a determination of a child's parentage. Connecticut law applies to such proceedings.

Recognition or Enforcement. A petitioner may also file a direct request seeking recognition or enforcement of a support order or agreement. UIFSA applies to such proceedings.

In a direct request for recognition and enforcement of a Convention support order or foreign support agreement:

1. a tribunal does not require a security, bond, or deposit to guarantee the payments of costs and expenses and

2. an obligee or obligor that benefited from free legal assistance in the issuing country is entitled, at least to the same extent, to any free legal assistance provided for by state law under the same circumstances.

Under the act, a petitioner filing a direct request is not entitled to assistance from BCSE.

The act's provisions pertaining to direct requests do not prevent tribunals from applying Connecticut laws that provide simplified, more expeditious rules regarding a direct request for recognition and enforcement of a foreign support order or foreign support agreement.

66, 73 – Convention Order Registration

An individual or a support enforcement agency seeking recognition of a Convention support order generally must register the order in Connecticut, as is the case for non-Convention orders under UIFSA.

Generally, a request for registration of a Convention support order must be accompanied by:

1. the order's complete text;

2. a record, in its original language with a certified English translation, stating that the order is enforceable in the issuing country;

3. if the respondent did not appear and was not represented in the proceeding in the issuing country, a record attesting, as appropriate, that he or she had proper notice and an opportunity to be heard either in the proceedings or in a challenge or appeal on fact or law before a tribunal;

4. records showing (a) the amount of any arrears and the information necessary to make the appropriate calculations and (b) any requirement for automatic adjustment of a support amount and the information needed to make the appropriate calculations; and

5. if necessary, a record showing any free legal assistance the applicant received in the issuing country.

A party seeking to register a Convention support order may seek recognition and partial enforcement of the order.

66 – Vacating an Order

Under the act, a tribunal may vacate a Convention support order's registration without a party contesting it if, acting on its own motion, it finds that the order's recognition and enforcement would be manifestly incompatible with public policy.

The tribunal must promptly notify the parties of a Convention support order registration or an order vacating such registration.

67-69 – Contesting a Registered Convention Order

Deadline for Contesting Orders. The act gives parties contesting registered Convention support orders more time to file the contest than allowed for contesting registered non-Convention orders under UIFSA (typically within 20 days of receiving notice of registration). A party contesting a registered Convention support order must file a contest within (1) 30 days after notice of the registration or (2) 60 days after the notice if the contesting party lives outside the United States. Under UIFSA, a party must file a contest within 20 days after notice of registration. If the nonregistering party fails to contest the order within the appropriate time period, the order is enforceable.

Grounds to Contest Order. By law, a party may contest a support order's validity on several enumerated grounds for which he or she bears the burden of proof. This includes a claim that the tribunal lacked personal jurisdiction or the order was obtained by fraud. Under the act, a party may contest a Convention support order on similar grounds in addition to grounds specific to international agreements, for which he or she has the burden of proof, such as:

1. the order's enforcement and recognition are manifestly incompatible with public policy, including the issuing tribunal's failure to observe minimum standards of due process, including notice and an opportunity to be heard;

2. the issuing tribunal lacked personal jurisdiction;

3. the order is unenforceable in the issuing country or was obtained by fraud in connection with a procedural matter;

4. a record accompanying a registration request is inauthentic or lacks integrity;

5. a proceeding between the same parties with the same purpose is pending before a tribunal and was filed first;

6. the order is incompatible with a more recent support order involving the same parties with the same purpose if the more recent order is entitled to enforcement and recognition under UIFSA;

7. the amount in arrears has been fully or partially paid;

8. if the respondent did not appear and was not represented in the proceeding in the issuing foreign country, he or she did not have proper notice and an opportunity to be heard either in the proceedings or in a challenge or appeal on fact or law before a tribunal; or

9. a tribunal modified the order even though the obligee is still a resident of the foreign country where the support order was issued and none of the act's exceptions apply.

In a Convention order contest, the tribunal (1) is bound by the factual findings on which the foreign tribunal based its jurisdiction, (2) may not review the order's merits, and (3) must promptly notify the parties of its decision.

A challenge or appeal of a Convention order does not suspend its enforcement unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Refusal to Enforce and Recognize an Order. Under prior law, a tribunal generally had to recognize and enforce a support order from another state. Under the act, a tribunal may refuse to recognize and enforce a Convention order on any of the above grounds if the contesting party meets the burden of proof.

The court may not dismiss the proceeding without providing the parties a reasonable time to request a new support order if the order is not recognized in Connecticut because:

1. the issuing tribunal lacked personal jurisdiction;

2. the order was obtained by fraud in connection with a procedural matter; or

3. the respondent did not appear in the case and was not represented in the proceeding in the issuing country, and he or she did not have proper notice and an opportunity to be heard either in the proceedings or in a challenge or appeal on fact or law before a tribunal.

Also, when a Convention order is refused on these grounds, BCSE must take all appropriate measures to request a child support order for the obligee if the bureau received an application for recognition and enforcement.

Under the act, if a tribunal does not recognize or enforce a Convention support order in its entirety, it must enforce any part of it that it can. An application or direct request may seek recognition and partial enforcement of such an order.

71 – Convention Order Modification

The act prohibits a tribunal from modifying a Convention child support order if the obligee still resides in the foreign country where the order was issued, unless (1) the obligee submits to the tribunal's jurisdiction, either expressly or by defending the case on its merits without objecting to the jurisdiction at the first available opportunity or (2) the foreign tribunal lacks or refuses to exercise jurisdiction to modify the support order or issue a new one.

61, 70 – Foreign Support Agreements

A foreign support agreement is (1) a maintenance arrangement or authentic instrument under the Convention or (2) an agreement for support in a record that:

a. is enforceable as a support order in the country of origin;

b. has been either informally drawn up or registered as an authentic instrument or authenticated by a foreign tribunal, or concluded, registered or filed with a foreign tribunal; and

c. may be reviewed and modified by a foreign tribunal.

Under the act, tribunals must generally recognize and enforce foreign support agreements registered in Connecticut. Applications or direct requests for agreement recognition must be accompanied by the agreement's complete text and a record stating that the agreement is enforceable as a support order in the issuing country.

A tribunal may only vacate the agreement's registration if, acting on its own motion, it finds that recognizing and enforcing the agreement would be manifestly incompatible with public policy.

In a foreign support agreement contest, a tribunal may refuse to recognize and enforce an agreement if it finds:

1. recognizing and enforcing the agreement is manifestly incompatible with public policy;

2. the agreement (a) was obtained by fraud or falsification or (b) is incompatible with a recognizable and enforceable support order involving the same parties and with the same purpose in Connecticut, another state, or a foreign country; or

3. the record stating that the agreement is enforceable lacks authenticity or integrity.

A proceeding for foreign support agreement recognition and enforcement must be suspended while a challenge to or appeal of the agreement is pending before another state's or country's tribunal.

72 – Personal Information

Under the act, personal information gathered for Convention support proceedings may be used only for the purposes for which it was gathered or transmitted.

BACKGROUND

UIFSA

UIFSA's general purpose is to create uniform rules and procedures, simplifying child support enforcement when the parties live in different states. In some cases, its provisions supplant state laws; in others, they specify which state's procedural and substantive laws are controlling.

All states had enacted some form of UIFSA by 1998, due in part to a provision in the 1996 federal welfare law that restricted states' eligibility for matching federal child support enforcement funds to those states that had enacted it. Prior to this latest revision, UIFSA was most recently revised in 2001. Connecticut adopted most of those revisions in 2007.

IV-D Funding and P. L. 113-183

By law, in “IV-D child support cases,” BCSE provides child support enforcement services under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act to children who are the beneficiaries of temporary family assistance (TFA), Medicaid, or foster care. BCSE was established and authorized to administer the child support program mandated by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act (CGS 46b-231(13)).

The federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P. L. 113-183) requires all states to adopt the 2008 revisions to UIFSA to remain eligible for continued federal Title IV-D funding for child support enforcement.

Hague Maintenance Convention

From June 2003 to November 2007, more than 70 countries, including the United States, met in The Hague, Netherlands, to establish a new Hague Convention on the Enforcement of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance. The Convention's purpose was to standardize the child support processes countries follow when handling child support issues that involve parties in different countries. The United States signed the Convention on November 23, 2007, but the changes have not yet been incorporated into federal law. The Convention's changes to child support enforcement are incorporated into the most recent revision of UIFSA.

OLR Tracking: KMD: JR: VR: cmg