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C.R.S. § 14-5-102
In 2003, this section was formerly numbered as §, and the former § 14-5-102 was relocated to § .
The terms defined in UIFSA receive a major makeover in the now-realized expectation that the Convention will enter into force in the United States at a future time. Six definitions of terms are completely new, sixteen existing definitions are amended to a greater or lesser degree, seven definitions remain basically untouched albeit six of these are renumbered, and one term is deleted because it no longer appears in the act.
Many crucial definitions continue to be left to local law. For example, the definitions provided by subsections (1) "child," and (2) "child-support order," refer to "the age of majority" without further elaboration. The exact age at which a child becomes an adult for different purposes is a matter for the law of each state or foreign country as is the age at which a parent's duty to furnish child support terminates. Similarly, a wide variety of other terms of art are implicitly left to state law. The new Convention provides a more explicit definition of "child" that is entirely consistent with the laws of all states.
There is a divergence of opinion among the several states regarding the appropriate age for termination of child support. The overwhelming number of states set ages 18 (legal adulthood for most purposes), or 19, or one of those two ages and high-school graduation, whichever comes later. Relatively few states have retained the formerly popular age of 21. And, some states extend the support obligation past age 21 if the person to be supported is engaged in higher education. Allegedly some support enforcement agencies and some tribunals have been reluctant to enforce an ongoing child support obligation past age 21, but under UIFSA it is the law of the issuing state or foreign country that makes the determination of the appropriate age for termination of support from an obligor. Because the order has been established with personal jurisdiction over the parties, it is fully enforceable under the terms of the act.
Under the terms of the Convention, the standard obligation of a responding tribunal to enforce a child-support order is for a person "under the age of 21 years." See Convention art. 2. Scope. However, a contracting nation may make a reservation to limit enforcement of a child- support order to "persons who have not attained the age of 18 years." Id. This possibility will not affect this act domestically because the United States does not intend to make such a reservation. Currently states will enforce another jurisdiction's order even if such an order could not have been obtained in the responding state because the child was over 18. There is no requirement to establish an order for a child over the age of 18 if that cannot be done under the local jurisdiction's law.
Subsection (3) "Convention," identifies the Hague Maintenance Convention, the basis on which UIFSA (2008) was drafted. As noted above, the Convention was the result of negotiations involving more than 70 foreign nations or, in some instances political subdivisions of a foreign nation, conducted in a series of meetings from May 2003 to November 2007.
Subsection (4) "Duty of support," means the legal obligation to provide support, whether or not that duty has been the subject of an order by a tribunal. This broad definition includes both prospective and retrospective obligations to the extent they are imposed by the relevant state law.
The definitions in subsections (5) "foreign country," (6) "foreign support order," and (7) "foreign tribunal," are all new to UIFSA, and must be read in conjunction with the prior and the new definition of "state," now in subsection (26). Formerly, under certain circumstances a foreign country or political subdivision was declared to be a "state." Defining a foreign country or a political subdivision thereof, e.g., a Canadian province, as a "state" may be traced back to 1968, where this approach first appeared in the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (RURESA). That fiction created confusion because a foreign support order is not entitled to full faith and credit. Indeed, such orders of the sister states of the United States were only relatively recently accorded that treatment after congressional action in 1994 with the advent of the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (FFCCSOA), 28. U.S.C. § 1738 B. Thus, constitutional analysis is not required for enforcement of foreign support orders; only state statutory issues are involved.
The term "foreign judgment" is used only once in UIFSA (1996) and (2001) in a context that clearly intends to mean "from a sister state." If an international construction is intended, the text in UIFSA (2001) is uniformly "foreign country or political subdivision." The new definitions in UIFSA (2008) are fine-tuned to avoid ambiguity in order to ensure that "foreign" is used strictly to identify international proceedings and orders.
Subsection (5) requires additional careful reading; under the act "foreign country" by no means includes all foreign nations. See Section 102(5)(A)-(D). Countries identified by three of the four subdivisions are reasonably ascertainable.
The countries described in Section 102(5)(B) have entered into an agreement with the forum state, which presumptively is known to officials of that state. A combined list of all such agreements of all states is not readily available.
Countries subject to Section 102(5)(C) theoretically could require individualized determinations on a case-by-case basis. An alternative might be for each state to create an efficient method for identifying foreign countries whose laws are "substantially similar" to UIFSA. On the other hand, the "substantially similar" test to measure the laws of foreign nations has been around since 1968 without eliciting much controversy.
In the future, assuming that there will be a number of countries with the Convention in force with the United States under Section 102(5)(D), the list of those countries will be well publicized.
Finally, there are very many foreign nations that do not, and will not, fit any of the definitions of "foreign country" established in the act. At present, there are 192 member states in the United Nations. Recognition and enforcement of support orders from nations that do not meet the definition of "foreign country" may be enforceable under the doctrine of comity. See Section 104.
Subsections (6) "foreign support order," (7) "foreign tribunal," and (12) "issuing foreign country" set down parallel tracks for a foreign support order, foreign tribunal, and foreign issuing country throughout the act.
Subsection (17) "obligor," and subsection (16) "obligee," are denominated in the Convention as "debtor" and "creditor." The terms inherently contain the legal obligation to pay or receive support, and implicitly refer to the individuals with a duty to support a child. "Obligor" includes an individual who is alleged to owe a duty of support as well as a person whose obligation has previously been determined. The one-order system of UIFSA can succeed only if the respective obligations of support are adjusted as the physical possession of a child changes between parents or involves a third-party caretaker. This must be accomplished in the context of modification, and not by the creation of multiple orders attempting to reflect each changing custody scenario. Obviously this issue is of concern not only to interstate and international child-support orders, but applies to intrastate orders as well.
Subsection (18) "outside this state," requires careful reading. This phrase is used in the act when the application of the provision is to be as broad as possible. Rather than limit the application of certain provisions of the act to other states, foreign countries as defined in subsection (5), or even countries whose orders are entitled to comity under Section 104, all nations and political subdivisions are truly "outside this state." For example, that term is found in Sections 316 through 18, which allow a tribunal of this state to accept information or assistance from everywhere in the world (in the court's discretion as to its effect).
The definitions in subsections (23) "responding state," and (24) "responding tribunal," accommodate the direct filing of a petition under UIFSA without the intervention of an initiating tribunal. Both definitions acknowledge the possibility that there may be a responding state and a responding tribunal in a situation where there is no initiating tribunal. Under current practice, the initial application for services most often will be generated by a support enforcement agency or a central authority of a foreign country and sent to the appropriate support enforcement agency in the responding state.
As discussed above in connection with subsections (5) through (7), the amended definition in subsection (26) "state," eliminates the legal fiction that a foreign country can be a state of the United States, and clarifies and implements the purpose of the act to enforce an international support order under state law. In UIFSA (2008), the term clearly is intended to refer only to a state of the United States or to other designated political entities subject to federal law.
The vast bulk of child support establishment, enforcement, and modification in the United States is performed by the state Title IV-D agencies. See Part IV-D, Social Security Act,et seq. Subsection (27) "support enforcement agency," includes not only those entities, but also any other state or local governmental entities, or private agencies acting under contract with such agencies, charged with establishing or enforcing child support. A private agency falls within the definition of a support enforcement agency only as an outsource of a Title IV-D agency or specifically identified as such under Section 103.
Subsection (28) "support order" is another definition that requires more careful reading than might be immediately clear. Virtually every financial aspect of a support order regarding child support or spousal support is covered. Throughout the act "support order" means both "child support" and "spousal support." "Child support" is used when the provision applies only to support for a child. The single provision applicable solely to spousal support is Section 211. Other forms of support that might be classified as "family support," are not dealt with by UIFSA.
Subsection (29) "tribunal," takes into account that a number of states have delegated various aspects of child-support establishment and enforcement to quasi-judicial bodies and administrative agencies. The term accounts for the breadth of state variations in dealing with support orders. This usage is standard in the child-support enforcement community; private practitioners who, only rarely, are involved in such cases may still find the term unfamiliar.