Registration Required: A Roadmap to Registering Foreign Domestic Relations Judgments, 0321 ALBJ, Vol. 82 No. 2 Pg. 184 (June, 2021)

AuthorBy Caleb A. Faulkner
PositionVol. 82 2 Pg. 184

REGISTRATION REQUIRED: A Roadmap to Registering Foreign Domestic Relations Judgments[1]

No. Vol. 82 No. 2 Pg. 184

Alabama Bar Lawyer

March, 2021

By Caleb A. Faulkner

Occasionally, a party to a domestic relations case encounters the need to register another state's support or custody judgment in Alabama. This issue arises when a party seeks to file an action in Alabama to either enforce and/or modify a judgment entered by a foreign state.

To make sure that Alabama obtains subject matter jurisdiction over this, the divorce practitioner should be familiar with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (known as the UIFSA)2 and the Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act (known as the UCCIEA).3

"In order for a court to enforce or modify a child-support order from another state, the UIFSA requires that the foreign order be registered in Alabama."4

"Likewise, [t]he UCCIEA requires that a foreign custody judgment be registered in an Alabama trial court before that court may enforce or modify the terms of the custody or visitation award contained in with the foreign judgment."5

If a support judgment6 of another state7 or a custody judgment of another state8 is not registered in Alabama, Alabama courts subject matter jurisdiction of the matter.9

This article examines the statutes and case law surrounding registration procedures under the UIFS A and the UCCJEA. We do not attempt to provide an all-inclusive guide to the registration of foreign judgments, but rather to highlight significant areas and requirements of both Acts and to point practitioners in the right direction so that Alabama can gain subject matter jurisdiction.

Statutory Components Of the UIFSA

Under the UIFSA, Alabama allows "[a] support order or income-withholding order" of another state to be enforced in Alabama if the order has first been registered in Alabama.10

Registration for Enforcement under the UIFSA

A comprehensive list of the information required to register a support order for enforcement in Alabama can be found in Ala Code § 30-3D-602(a) (1975): Except aswise provided in Section 30-3D-706,[11] a support order or income-withholding order of another state or a foreign support order may be registered in this state by sending the following records to the appropriate tribunal in this state:

(1) a letter of transmittal to the tribunal requesting registration and enforcement;

(2) two copies, including one certified copy, of the order to be registered, including any modification of the order;

(3) a sworn statement by the person requesting registration or a certified statement by the custodian of the records showing the amount of any arrearage;

(4) the name of the obligor and, if known;

(A) the obligor's address and Social Security number;

(B) the name and address of the obligor's employer and any other source of income of the obligor; and

(C) a description and the location of property of the obligor in this state not exempt from execution; and

(5) except as otherwise provided in Section 30-3D-312,12 the name and address of the obligee and, if applicable, the person to whom support payments are to be remitted.13

Once a request for registration is made, the court in which the request is made must file the order as a foreign order, "together with one copy of the documents and information, regardless of their form."[14] In cases in which multiple orders are in place: [T]he person requesting registration shall:

(1) furnish to the tribunal a copy of every support order asserted to be in effect in addition to the documents specified in this section;

(2) specify the order alleged to be the controlling order, if any; and

(3) specify the amount of consolidated arrears, if any.15

If registration is sought in Alabama so that an enforcement pleading can be filed in an Alabama court, the pleading can be filed either at the same time as or after the request for registration is made.16 Further, in cases where there is confusion as to which support order is the current and controlling order, a party may also ask the court to determine which order is controlling; in those cases, the request can be made either independently or as a part of a request for registration and enforcement or modification.17 However, the requesting party must provide notice of this request to all parties who could be affected by such a determination.18 Once the requirements for registration are met, the Alabama court has the same ability to enforce and otherwise address the support order as it does with support orders issued by Alabama courts.19

Registration for Modification under the UIFSA

Section 30-3D-609 states that if the order is not already registered, in order to either modify or modify and enforce a support order, the order must first be registered in the same way that an order must be registered for enforcement under the UIFSA.20 A petition to modify, which must state the grounds for the modification, can be filed either at the same time as or after t he request for registration is made.21 Jurisdictional requirements for modification are found in § 30-3D-611 and §30-3D-613. Once compliance with the requirements of either § 30-3D-611 or § 30-3D-613 are met, an Alabama court has the same authority to enforce another state's support order as it does to enforce an Alabama court's support order.22

Basis for Jurisdiction to Enforce and Modify a Support Order of Another State

Section 30-3D-613 states: If all of the parties who are individuals reside in this state and the child does not reside in the issuing state, a tribunal of this state has jurisdiction to enforce and to modify the issuing state's child-support order in a proceeding to register that order.

A tribunal of this state exercising jurisdiction under this section shall apply the provisions of Articles 123 and 2,24 this article,25 and the procedural and substantive law of this state to the proceeding for enforcement or modification. Articles 3,26 4,[27] 5,28 7,29 and 8[30] do not apply31

On the other hand, § 30-3D-611(a) provides for jurisdiction in cases in which § 30-3D-613 is inapplicable: If Section 30-3D-613 does not apply, upon petition a tribunal of this state may modify a child-support order issued in another state which is registered in this state if, after notice and hearing, the tribunal finds that:

(1) the following requirements are met:

(A) neither the child, nor the obligee who is an individual, nor the obligor resides in the issuing state;

(B) a petitioner who is a nonresident of this state seeks modification; and

(C) the respondent is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this state; or

(2) this state is the residence of the child, or a party who is an individual is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of this state, and all of the parties who are individuals have filed consents in a record in the issuing tribunal for a tribunal of this state to modify the support order and assume continuing, ex-

Modification under the UIFSA

For all procedural and enforcement purposes, modification under either § 30-3D-613 or § 30-3D-611(a) is treated the same as a modification of an order issued by an Alabama court would be.33 An Alabama court could not modify a support order that would be non-modifiable in the state that initially issued the order.34 Further, "[i]f two or more tribunals have issued child-support orders for the same obligor and same child, the order that controls and must be so recognized under Section 30-3D-207[35] establishes the aspects of the support order which are nonmodifiable." Once the person responsible for making support payments satisfies the obligation imposed by the original support order, an Alabama court cannot increase or extend the payor's duty36 When an Alabama court modifies another state's child support order, exclusive and continuing jurisdiction is bestowed upon Alabama courts.37

Choice of Law under the UIFSA

When choice of law issues arise regarding the order, § 30-3D-604 provides guidance. The general rule is in subsection (a):

Except as otherwise provided in subsection (d), the law of the issuing state or foreign country governs: (1) the nature, extent, amount, and duration of current payments under a registered support order;

(2) the computation and payment of arrearages and accrual of interest on the arrearages under the support order; and

(3) the existence and satisfaction of other obligations under the support order.38

Subsection (d) states: After a tribunal of this state or another state determines which is the controlling order and issues an order consolidating arrears, if any, a tribunal of this state shall prospectively apply the law of the state or foreign country issuing the controlling order, including its law on interest on arrears, on current and future support, and on consolidated arrears.39

If arrears are sought in regard to a registered support order, the longest statute of limitations-between Alabama and the state in which the original order was is-sued-should be applied.40 In a case involving arrears under a foreign support judgment that is properly registered in Alabama, once the law of the issuing state is used to determine "the computation and payment of arrearages and accrual of interest on the arrearages under the support order" under § 30-3D-604(a)(2), an Alabama court must use and apply Alabama law "to enforce current support and collect arrears and interest due."41

In a modification action in Alabama, the duration of a support order is determined by the state that issued the original support order that is being modified.42

Statutory Components Of the UCCJEA

In regard to the UCCJEA, Alabama allows...

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