In a rare appellate opinion that addresses international child support, the Court of Appeals of Arkansas reversed its trial court and concluded that Arkansas did have jurisdiction to issue an initial child support order.
Natalie Tompkins and the parties’ child resided in Germany, which the parties agreed was the child’s “home state” (pursuant to the UCCJEA for purposes of custody jurisdiction). Lawrence Tompkins was active duty military and his permanent residence was Arkansas. The parties proceeded to a divorce hearing in Arkansas in November 2018. It did not address custody of the parties’ child. During the hearing, Natalie’s lawyer raised the issue of child support, and requested a child support order. The trial court conflated the issue of child support with jurisdiction over the child’s custody, and denied Natalie’s request for a support order. The Court of Appeals clarified that the UCCJEA dictates child-custody jurisdiction, but the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), and particularly those parts that reference the Hague Maintenance Convention (Germany and the United States are treaty partners since the U.S.’s ratification and it becoming effective on January 1, 2017), dictate child support jurisdiction. UIFSA is clear that since there was no existing child support obligation that was due recognition by Arkansas, and the Arkansas court had personal jurisdiction over Lawrence, it could issue a child support order.