Mary Connole married Ernst DeGroot in 1984 in the District of Columbia. They had two children. Difficulties arose between them and they decided to separate in 1997 and they were divorced in 1999. Neither party asked for child support, but Ernst paid $600 a month in child support to Mary until 2004 when the oldest child turned 19. Then he unilaterally reduced the payments to $300 a month and Mary filed a motion in DC to award child support.
The trouble was that no one still lived in DC. Mary and the children now lived in Maryland and Ernest now lived in Virginia. The trial court denied the motion finding it had no jurisdiction over the subject matter.
The DC Court of Appeals reversed. First it looked at prior cases in the District of Columbia holding the court does not lose jurisdiction to modify child support when the parties move to other jurisdictions. The court then turned to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to see if it limited the court’s powers. The court noted that UIFSA did say that a court loses its powers to modify its child support orders when the parties leave the jurisdiction.
However, in this case, Mary was asking the court to establish an initial child support order in a divorce it had already decided. The court could find nothing in UIFSA that prevented the DC court from doing just that.