In the unpublished opinion of FY v. JL, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division denied a Mother’s attempt to modify the parties’ Chinese child support order.
The parties, parents to a minor child born in China in 2006, entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) in China, and divorced by consent in China in 2009. Their agreement was made part of their “certificate of divorce” issued by the Chinese authorities, and the NJ court concluded this made it equivalent to a court order. Their MSA settled issues related to property, finances, custody, and child support. More specifically, the child was to remain in China with his mother, and she would also retain all of the parties’ assets. In return for retaining all assets, the father was not obligated to pay child support. He remarried and moved to NJ with his new wife in 2017. The child came and lived with his father in NJ in 2018 for almost a year, returned to China, and was then brought back to NJ by his mother who then filed a petition in the NJ courts seeking full custody and a modification of the child support order (asking for support).
The court concluded that the mother was asking for custody when a valid court order already gave her custody, so that request was dismissed. In looking at the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), the court concluded that China retained continuing exclusive jurisdiction over its child support order. China was the proper venue in which to seek a modification of child support, or, at the very least, the mother had not demonstrated that China declined jurisdiction to modify the support order. Per UIFSA, NJ could modify the foreign child support order if it had personal jurisdiction over the parties, and China’s tribunal “lacks or refuses to exercise jurisdiction to modify its child support order.” Until the mother could demonstrate that China lacked or refused to exercise jurisdiction over the support order’s modification, she had to seek recourse in the Chinese courts.
*China and the U.S. are not parties to any treaty or agreement related to child support. See the firm’s resource page for links to some helpful websites on international child support.