One of the most contentious issues that often arises in New Jersey matrimonial law occurs when divorced parents have moved out of the state in which they were divorced, and the time approaches to pay college expenses on behalf of their children.
Unbeknownst to most litigants, a federal statute known as UIFSA, codified in New Jersey at N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.72(a) et seq., describes the manner in which Courts are to apply support laws in situations where one or more parties in a litigation were divorced outside New Jersey and now reside here.
Without delving into the complex provisions of UIFSA, the bottom line is that absent clear choice-of-law language in the divorce agreement itself, New Jersey courts have been incredibly hesitant to apply our state’s more liberal child support laws to support issues arising in the UIFSA context. Even where both parties have not resided in the State which entered the divorce for over ten (10) years, and there is vague choice-of-law langauge in the divorce agreement at issue, New Jersey courts will not apply our laws to the contested support issue.
What has become even more troubling is that even where parties consent to the transfer of “continuing, exclusive jurisdiction” (CEJ) to another state such as New Jersey, our courts remain paralyzed by their interpretation of UIFSA. Though N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.72(a)(2) clearly states that “written consent” between parties to transfer CEJ is sufficent for our courts to modify an out-of-state support order, New Jersey courts have not followed through in utilizing their discretion to exercise such authority.
With states such as Indiana, Delaware, and Arizona moving towards exercising greater authority to modify out-of-state support orders, New Jersey may not be far behind.
by Robert H. Siegel, Esq. (See “UIFSA and the Evolving Nature of Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction” in November 2012 NJ Family Lawyer)