Given that football pre-season has begun, I thought it would be great to share with you a New Jersey family law case that involves none other than former New York Giants star Ahmad Bradshaw. The case was centered on jurisdiction, an issue that my law firm addresses on a frequent basis. In particular, the case raised the question, “will the New Jersey Family Courts have jurisdiction over my New Jersey child support order if I do not live in the state anymore?” Let’s explore.
Plaintiff Johnson and defendant Bradshaw were never married; however, the couple did have a child in 2010 born in Virginia. At the time of the child’s birth, Bradshaw was the running back for the New York Giants and lived in Clifton, New Jersey. Yet, Johnson and the child had never lived in New Jersey while Bradshaw was residing there. Less than a year later, Johnson initiated an incoming UIFSA (Uniform Interstate Family Support Act) application for child support. A hearing was scheduled and the New Jersey court entered a child support order for $1200 per month. The court stated that the $1200 award in child support was temporary and would have no effect on the final order.
No issues arose until February 2013 came when Bradshaw was released from the Giants. Months later, on June 11, 2013, he signed a contract to play for the Indianapolis Colts, which meant of course he would no longer be living in New Jersey. During these months, plaintiff Johnson sought a modification of the temporary child support order. Bradshaw’s attorney sought to have Johnson’s request dismissed, stating that now neither party lived in New Jersey and therefore the New Jersey family courts did not have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to decide the matter anymore.
The Appellate Division noted that there were no cases exactly on point to look to for precedent that addressed the entering of a final child support order after all parties have left the jurisdiction. However, it stated that provisions of the UIFSA were illuminative and did address the jurisdictional issue presented to the court. Quoting Youssefi v. Youssefi, 328 N.J. Super. 12, 21 (App. Div. 2000), “when there is only one child support order a court retains jurisdiction to enforce a child support order when all the parties resided elsewhere, where the state order was the only order setting defendant’s child support obligation.” Youseffi is distinguishable from the Bradshaw case because in Bradshaw, only one support order was entered into in New Jersey . Additionally, no other state had modified the child support order. Therefore, the Appellate Division found that the court had jurisdiction to enforce the 2011 child support order.
Once it was decided that the New Jersey court had jurisdiction to enforce the child support order, the second question it addressed was whether or not the New Jersey court had jurisdiction to modify the order. The court looked to the language of the UIFSA, codified as N.J.S.A. 2A:4-30.65-20.123. The Act obligates states to enforce child support orders issued by another state, but also imposes limitations on the authority to modify child support orders. Quoting UIFSA §610 cmt., 9 U.L.A. 284 (2001), “once every individual party and the child leave the issuing state, the continuing, exclusive jurisdiction of the issuing tribunal to modify its order terminates.” Therefore, the court held that New Jersey could not modify the child support order because all of the parties no longer resided in the state. Consequently, the plaintiff’s request for the support order to be modified was denied.
The Bradshaw case was the first to clearly lay out a situation in which a court would still have jurisdiction to enforce a New Jersey child support order when the parties no longer lived in the state. The case was very influential in New Jersey as jurisdictional issues frequently arise in family law practices throughout the state. Even though Ahmad Bradshaw is a famous athlete, as a New Jersey child support lawyers we have had countless clients who, regardless of their financial situation, could easily relate to his case. If you are in a similar situation, I encourage you to reach out to my divorce and family law firm to address any issues and concerns you may have. Thank you.