Q: Can Registering A Child Support Order in Another State Create a Loophole That Prevents Collection of Arrears?

A: Each state has different rules governing a child support order. To further complicate matters, sometimes parents move from one state to another.

To provide some uniformity to parents and children, most states have adopted uniform rules dealing with a State’s power to establish, modify, and enforce child support orders.

Arizona agreed. As a result, when Arizona enforces a child support order entered by another state, the order must first be validly registered in Arizona.

The registration process can be complicated. Getting help and advice from an attorney will help keep you from making mistakes.

Taylor v. Pandola Uncovers Problem In Law

State rules, for instance, have some potential issues. Once a child support order is registered in Arizona, the non-registering party has 20 days to object to the registration. This may seem harmless, but there is another conflicting rule that prohibits a parent from later challenging the registration if it had not been objected to during the 20-day period. What?

As a result, some parents sought to use this aspect of the registration process as a get-out-of-jail-free card on past-due child support. Fortunately, the Arizona Court of Appeals put an end to this practice in Taylor v. Pandola.

In Pandola, Father registered an out-of-state child support order in Arizona and Mother didn’t file an objection within the 20 day period. Mother didn’t object to the registration because she did not have an issue with Arizona acquiring jurisdiction to enforce and modify the orders.

Dad Lies About Amounts Owed

However, Father’s notice of registration included a statement that he owed no past due child support.

Although Father’s statement was not true, the law says that because Mother did not object to the registration, she couldn’t contest Father’s statement that he owed no arrears.

For that reason, the trial Court ruled in favor of Father. This prevented Mother from filing to enforce Father’s past due child support obligation.

This created a bad precedent. It gave parents who owed child support a loophole for escaping their obligation to pay by lying on a state form.  If the other party did not file an objection to the registration, the state would wipe the parent’s slate clean.

This directly contradicted the purpose of the registration process. It was designed to facilitate and enable the payment of child support.

Court Closes The Loophole

Luckily, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mother. It reasoned that her non-objection merely confirmed the validity of the underlying child support order, and not Father’s claims in the registration notice. The Court also vacated the trial Court’s grant of attorney’s fees to Father.

This case is a great example of how trial courts do not always get it right. Unfortunately, many family law litigants do not have the resources to file an appeal.

This was a brave mother. Her decision to challenge the trial court’s ruling not only impacted her life, it helped prevent the problem from occurring for others.