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State law compels relocated spouse to pay child support

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2023 | Divorce

People move for every imaginable reason: career change, retirement, cost of living for a family. Statistics that document who relocates provide fascinating looks into social and economic changes. For example, 30 million people move annually. In 2021, the mean age at which people moved was just over 36. Generation Z comprised the highest percentage. Not surprisingly, January ranks as the month fewest people move.

Californians flock to Washington

Relocation statistics for Washington reveal that Californians find the Evergreen State appealing. Those who have left the Golden State have flocked to Texas, New York and Washington, in that order. Washington ranks third among those states to where people have relocated from another state. The farthest that residents have gone is over 2,000 miles.

Two legal bases for protection

Not surprisingly, spousal relocation can raise legal questions. A case decided by the Court of Appeals of the state of Washington—Division II highlights how divorced parents who reside in separate states retain legal obligations in the state in which they married. A couple married and had a daughter in 2003. The wife filed for divorced in 2004. The husband owed approximately $69,000 in child support.

In a petition improperly brought before the court to modify his child support obligation, the husband asserted that Washington lacked the authority to compel him to pay child support. He argued his daughter had been born in Louisiana and the then-couple resided there when his wife filed the petition. After addressing his improper filing, the court noted that Washington courts have authority in such a case on two bases: The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act and state law that permits a petition for divorce if one of the parties is a member of the armed forces in the state.

Experience matters

Former spouses who have left the state or spouses who have recently relocated to Washington have plenty to address in their respective new homes. Among those, changes in the legal relationship to former partners rank as those easily overlooked. Attorneys who understand child support can offer guidance.