Yes. Over the many years I have been practicing as a child support lawyer, it has become more and more common for people to move out of state after a divorce or breakup, either for work, family, or just a fresh start. As the attorneys at our law firm embrace, relocating becomes complicated when there are children involved, as the laws pertaining to child support and custody are different from state to state. In an effort to remedy the confusion in determining jurisdiction between states, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which gave a state that entered a controlling child support order, the authority to exercise continued jurisdiction to modify that order. Recent amendments to the law, however, allow parents, that have both moved out of state, to consent to giving jurisdiction to their new state. In Lall v. Shivani, mother Monisha Shivani challenged the exercise of continuing exclusive jurisdiction of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Hudson County, and appealed from a post judgment order dated January 5, 2015 that denied the reconsideration of orders that modified her child support obligations. She argued that the orders should be vacated because she moved to North Carolina, her child’s home state, and so New Jersey Family Part courts no longer had jurisdiction to review the issue. The governing statute, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, codified in this state as New Jersey Statute 2A:4-30.124 to -30.201, was recently amended, and incorporated provisions that abrogated the previous provisions that gave authority to New Jersey Family Part courts to modify a child support order when the parent and child no longer live in the State of New Jersey. However, when the orders at issue were entered, the previous version of the Act, currently repealed, was controlling law.
After reviewing all the issues and considerations, the New Jersey Appellate Division concluded that the specific facts of the case supported that Family Part’s decision to exercise continuing exclusive jurisdiction that permitted the modification of the prior child support order. In addition, the appellate panel held that the amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act had no impact on the case at hand. As such the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the order of the Family, but made sure to note that the the recent statutory amendments changed the jurisdictional foundations when the parent and child no longer live in New Jersey.
When Anil Lall and Monisha Shivani divorced, Anil, the father, was awarded with sole legal and residential custody, and Monisha was given limited parenting time. Anil found a job in North Carolina, and his application to move there with the child was granted on June 28, 2013. Monisha’s child support obligation was also reduced in consideration of the costs she would have to bear in exercising her parenting time in North Carolina. Her parenting time was also increased after a June 23, 2014 plenary hearing in which she informed the court that she had also moved to North Carolina. After both parent’s filed motions for reconsideration, the judge modified the child support obligation based on Monisha’s increased parenting time. As she no longer had to drive all the way from New Jersey to North Carolina to exercise her parenting time, the parenting time calculation no longer included a parenting time expense reduction, and her child support obligation increased. This order also stated that the litigation in New Jersey had ended, and a District Court judge in North Carolina accepted jurisdiction because North Carolina was now the home state for the child and both parents. The North Carolina judge entered an order on October 17, 2014 that memorialized the terms of the New Jersey order, and accepted jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Monisha filed a letter to the court and objected to the October 15, 2014, and challenged both the calculation of child support and the New Jersey Family Part court’s jurisdiction. She argued that that since jurisdiction was now in North Carolina, both the October 15 and 17 orders should be vacated. She included a motion to reconsider with the letter that raised the new jurisdictional challenge, which was denied on January 5, 2015. Monisha then appealed to the New Jersey Appellate Division.
Monisha argued that under the Act, her moving to North Carolina, the child’s home state, stripped away subject matter jurisdiction from the New Jersey Family Part court to modify the child support order, and the order stemming from such modification should be unenforceable.
The New Jersey Appellate Division explained that the purpose of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, is to resolve potential jurisdictional issues pertaining to enforcement of child support orders across state lines. This is done by designating one order as a controlling order, and provides for the possibility of interstate jurisdiction to modify child support orders when the children and both parents do not all live in the same state. The 2016 statutory amendments incorporated provisions of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act. Prior to the amendments, the Act provided for continuing exclusive jurisdiction for a court that entered a child support order. While the amendments provide for a concept of continuing exclusive jurisdiction it was not in the same manner. The amendments provided that when a New Jersey Family Part court enters a child support order, as long as one parent is still in the state, that court will have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify that child support order. However, the statutory amendments changed the procedure for when all the parties move to a different state. Then, a New Jersey Family Part court may exercise continuing, exclusive jurisdiction if the parties decide to give a Family Part court consent to modify a controlling child support order. Conversely, a New Jersey Family Part court can not modify a child support order, when all parties have left the state if all the parties file written consent in New Jersey stating that another court should modify the order.
In Lall v. Shivani, Monisha argued that New Jersey lacked jurisdiction to modify the previous child support. The New Jersey Appellate Division explained that when these post-judgment proceedings were taking place, Monisha lived in New Jersey. Moreover, the state that issued the controlling child support order was New Jersey, and as such was conferred continuing exclusive jurisdiction to the modify that child support order, so long as one of the parties still lived in the state.
Monisha revealed to the court that she moved to North Carolina during the plenary hearing to consider her request for more visitation time, a hearing where both parents were present. After she got the extra parenting time, she then filed a motion for reconsideration and raised other issues, such as the amount of child support, which resulted in the order dated October 15, 2014. The order dated October 17, merely memorialized the terms of the October 15 order.
The New Jersey Appellate Division explained that by filing motions relating to parenting time and child support, and appearing at the hearings for those motions, both parents consented to the State of New Jersey’s continued exercise of jurisdiction. The Family Part judge had been correctly guided by the sections of the currently repealed statute, and appropriately exercised jurisdiction, because the parents had not filed the requisite consent forms to permit North Carolina to review the issues in dispute, as New Jersey State 2A:4-30.72(a)(2) requires. Furthermore, The statutory amendments to the Act were not in effect until April 1, 2016, and any orders entered before that date have to be reviewed under the provisions of the previous statute. As such, under the previous statute, Monisha’s arguments about jurisdiction had no basis. Therefore, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the order of the Family Part.