Robert G. Smith, PLLC
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Reluctant state jeopardizes child support for everyone

New York parents who receive child support should be aware that a recent action in Idaho has the potential to jeopardize foreign child support enforcement for everyone. Due to misguided concerns about Shariah law, legislators in the state recently rejected a pending treaty that would make participating countries enforce foreign child support orders.

The proposed child support treaty includes a number of countries, but as in the United States child support is under the jurisdiction of state government, each state in required to ratify it. Currently, individual states must negotiate with foreign governments in order to seek enforcement of child support orders, a process that can take years. With the treaty, foreign governments would enforce child support orders issued in American courts. Conversely, states would also enforce child support orders issued in the foreign courts of participating countries, a sticking point for the Idaho legislators who are concerned that doing so would allow Shariah law to trump U.S. law in some cases.

Government officials have called such fears baseless, as protections already exist in the U.S. for courts to refuse to enforce orders that conflict with American laws. In addition to providing a uniform and automatic means for child support collection, the treaty also carries with it significant amounts of potential federal funding that would go to individual states to help automate the collection process, meaning everyone could potentially lose.

Child support orders are issued to make certain that a child enjoys a standard of living that is similar to what would have otherwise been the case if the parents had remained together. Trying to enforce a child support order when one parent lives abroad can be very difficult. The pending treaty could help millions of parents across the country seek and obtain needed child support from foreign parents much more easily. Those who need to open a child support case against a parent who lives abroad may want to seek help from a family law attorney.

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