The Family Court's New Uniforms, 0117 SCBJ, SC Lawyer, January 2017, #28

Author:Jonathan W. Lounsberry, J.
 
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The Family Court’s New Uniforms

Vol. 28 Issue 4 Pg. 28

South Carolina BAR Journal

January, 2017

Amendments to South Carolina’s Uniform Interstate Family Support Act and the Adoption of the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act

Jonathan W. Lounsberry, J.

Imagine on a Monday you return from a restful weekend and have two consultations scheduled on your calendar. Your staff's notes suggest that each consultation purports to be a straightforward case: one being modification of child support and the other a modification of custody.

Client A shows up for his appointment and as you are meeting with him you start to realize that his case is anything but straightforward. Not only does Client A want you to modify his child support obligation, he wants you to modify his Swedish child support obligation. While pictures of Ikea, Volvo and snow flash through your head, you begin to wonder if it is possible for the South Carolina Family Court to modify his order.

Later in the day, Client B shows up for her appointment and shortly after the meeting begins, you have the same sinking feeling that her case is also anything but straight for-28 SC Lawyer ward. Client B is not really seeking a modification of her custody order; instead, she is seeking to have her custodial rights temporarily transferred to her mother while Client B deploys for 18 months. Like earlier, you begin to wonder if the South Carolina Family Court can even grant the relief Client B is seeking.

After Client B leaves, you have the same sinking feeling about each case, so, you head to the computer to conduct some quick research of the issues and learn that it is now possible for the South Carolina Family Court to grant both Clients' requested relief. In 2015, the South Carolina Family Court received two new "uniforms": an amended version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) and the adoption of the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA).

These new "uniforms" give the practitioners the ability to keep pace with the shrinking effects of globalization and the effect of a parent's mobility on issues of support, custody and visitation. Below is a brief overview of what practitioners should be aware of when dealing with each.

Amendments to South Carolina's Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

In 2007, The Hague Conference on Private International Law convened "… to improve co-operation among States for the international recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance." This resulted in the 2007 Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (2007 Hague Convention). (The United States became a signatory to the 2007 Hague Convention in the same year, with the U.S. Senate ratifying the treaty in 2010.1) The purpose of the 2007 Hague Convention is "… to ensure the effective international recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance, in particular by a) establishing a comprehensive system of co-operation between the authorities of the Contracting States; b) making available applications for the establishment of maintenance decisions; c) providing for the recognition and enforcement of maintenance decisions; and d) requiring effective measures for the prompt enforcement of maintenance decisions."[2]

In September 2014, the 113th Congress enacted the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (PSTSFA), later signed into law by President Obama, intending "[t]o prevent and address sex trafficking of children in foster care, to extend and improve adoption incentives, and to improve international child support recovery."3Title III of the Act, among other things, deals with the recovery of international child support and the federal legislation implementing the 2007 Hague Convention. The PSTSFA required a revision to each state's version of UIFSA statues to enact Title III of PSTSFA, as the 2007 Hague Convention is not self-executing and requires appropriate legislation for implementation.

In June 2015, Gov. Haley signed Act 33 into law.[4] It enacted the above-referenced amendments required under the PSTSFA to South Carolina's UIFSA (S.C. Code §§ 63-17-2900 – 4040), which allows our family court to address issues of support or determinations of parentage issued by foreign tribunals.5

Now that practitioners have the ability to enforce or modify international support obligations or determinations of parentage, what does this mean? The full practical implication of the adoption of the 2007 Hague Convention through UIFSA cannot be completely addressed in such a short article, as each individual implication (e.g., jurisdictional concerns, choice of law, discovery, etc.) is likely significant enough to discuss at length in its own tome.

Nonetheless, one distinction to be aware of when attempting to modify an international support obligation concerns...

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