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Mar 5, 2020 | Family Law

Enforcing or Modifying Massachusetts Child Support Orders when Parents Relocate


Today we live in a very mobile society. People will often move to be closer to family, start new jobs, attend school or just to enjoy a new environment.  Decades ago such moves made it very difficult to enforce child support orders and often children went without support from one of their parents. Indeed, some parents would relocate simply to avoid paying child support.  However, a lot has changed in the law to make enforcement of child support orders a lot easier.

In 1992, the federal government created the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“UIFSA”) to help parents enforce and modify child support orders when one or both parties have moved to a new state. UIFSA sets a national standard for each state to follow in enforcing child support orders, regardless of the state.

Unfortunately, even after the creation of UIFSA, it can still be difficult to navigate the system.  This post is intended to give you an overview of how to access to benefits of UIFSA.

What happens to your child support order when one parent leaves the state?

For example, you and your spouse are divorced in Massachusetts and you have agreed to a certain amount of child support. A few years later, your former spouse relocates to Texas. It would be very difficult to enforce the child support order yourself at this point, because it would be almost impossible to force your former spouse to come back to Massachusetts to face the court. It is also very difficult for the Department of Revenue in Massachusetts to enforce the order against your former spouse in Texas because a lot of their enforcement mechanisms are unavailable. For example, they cannot suspend your former spouse’s Texas driver’s license.

This is where UIFSA comes into play!

Under UIFSA, you can ask your state’s child support agency to forward your child support order to the child support agency of the state where your former spouse now lives and have that agency enforce the child support order. Continuing with the example above, you would ask the Department of Revenue to forward the Massachusetts’ court order to the child support agency in Texas and ask that they register the order in Texas and enforce the order. At that point, the Texas child support agency can use their enforcement mechanisms – such as suspending your former spouse’s Texas driver’s license, garnishing his/her wages, or levying bank accounts – in order to collect child support from your former spouse.

Can I change the amount of my child support order when one parent leaves the state? Which state would change the amount?

Yes, child support is always modifiable. As long as one parent remains in the state that issued the original child support order, the child support will need to be modified in that state.  For example, if Massachusetts issued the original order and you or the other parent continued to reside in Massachusetts, the order would remain in Massachusetts and could only be modified in Massachusetts.

What happens to your child support order when both parents leave the state?

This is a little bit trickier. The parent requesting the modification must register it and request to modify it in the state where the other parent resides.  For example, the original child support order for dad to pay support to mom entered in Massachusetts. Thereafter, mom relocates to New Hampshire and the dad relocates to Rhode Island. If mom wishes to seek an increase in child support, she would have to register the order in Rhode Island and seek to modify/increase the order in Rhode Island.

What’s next?

If you have any questions regarding establishing, modifying, or registering a child support order, please contact the experienced family law attorneys at Wilchins Cosentino & Novins LLP at 781-235-5500 or schedule a time for a phone call


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