When people secure a divorce in another country, they may find themselves subject to unfamiliar laws, and involved in legal processes that bear little resemblance to what they have previously seen and heard here in the U.S.
While they may achieve the desired result despite their initial feeling of discomfort — a legal split from their spouse — it is nevertheless important for them to remember that the long-term effects of this final judgment are generally enforceable, even if they come back to the U.S.
To illustrate, consider a case involving a 52-year-old man from neighboring South Dakota who recently learned that he may be looking at perpetual child support payments under Canadian law.
The man, who was born and raised in South Dakota, accompanied his wife up to a town in Manitoba when she was offered a job opportunity there. Unfortunately, the couple’s marriage failed and the two secured a divorce in Canada in 1997. As part of the divorce settlement, the man was ordered to pay $300 a month in child support.
Shortly thereafter, the man returned to South Dakota, where he lived for nineteen years, and made every single child support payment on time up until December 2012. At this time, he believed that his child support obligations had come to an end as his two children could officially be considered adults.
Several months later, however, he received a letter from the state’s Department of Social Services informing him that he had at least $2,700 in child support arrears.
After doing a bit of research and consulting with professionals, he learned that unlike the child support laws here in the U.S., Canada’s dictate that child support can go on indefinitely unless the payor challenges the matter in court. Even then, experts say the chances of prevailing are 50-50.
It’s important then for people to understand that state law and federal law typically dictate that support orders entered in courts of a foreign jurisdiction are fully enforceable here in the U.S.
For his part, the man came up with the child support owed (although the enforcement action hurt his credit) and had an administrative hearing scheduled with South Dakota officials earlier this week. It remains uncertain as to whether he will continue to be locked into perpetual child support payments.
Those with any type of question concerning child support — general information, enforcement, modification, etc. — should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about their rights and options.