The Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act

Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

This lesson will introduce the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, an important act involving the enforcement of child and spousal support obligations. Upon completion, you, the reader, will have a solid grasp of the details of this act, along with other similar acts.

What is the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act Anyway?

When Keelan and his wife divorced, he was awarded custody of their two young children. The judge ordered their mother to pay child support and medical support. A visitation scheduled was ordered as well. Keelan's ex-wife didn't pay child support consistently. Before long, she was $12,000 behind in payments. Despite claiming that she couldn't afford to pay to support their children, she managed to scrape the funds together to move from Texas to Hawaii. Little did she know that even with an ocean between herself and the court system, she would end up having to pay to support her children anyway. The state of Texas worked with the state of Hawaii to make that happen. This is an example of how the different states work together to ensure that children get the support they deserve. Unfortunately, it took significant legislation over several years to make that happen.

Supporting a Child Involves Medical Support


The Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA), enacted in 1950, was not the first act that was put into place involving the support of children and former spouses. The URESA improved the Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act of 1910, with the enforcement of court orders for support across state lines. This allowed the states to work together on both criminal and civil levels. The Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act of 1910 made it illegal for a husband to abandon his wife or child under the age of 16 without support.

The Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (RURESA) made it possible for custodial parents to have orders registered in another state and be heard in the court in that other state. It was a revision of the original URESA. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) improved upon RURESA, in 1992, by ensuring that the original orders stay in the original state. This meant that the original state retained jurisdiction over the matter. Finally, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), passed in 1996, mandated states to adopt UIFSA by 1998. If a state failed to do so, it would lose federal funding.

Further Details

URESA was created by the National Conference on Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1950; it was approved by the American Bar Association. One main point of URESA was that it allowed two states to work together on a suit when a family was deserted in one state. If the spouse who deserted the family fled to another state, URESA allowed the two states to work together. There was some question of the constitutionality of the act. However, it is important to understand that URESA was created in a time where families didn't break up as often as they do today. Wives stayed at home to raise families, and husbands went to work to provide financial support.

Examples of URESA's Impact

Karen and her husband married shortly after he returned from World War II. They quickly started a family. Three sons were born in three years, and Karen had her hands full. She stayed at home while her husband went to work. Unfortunately for Karen, her husband grew tired of the chaos of their home full of children. He just didn't come home from work one day. After frantic searching, she found out he abandoned them for another woman in another state. Karen's uncle was an attorney and told her about a new law (URESA) that would allow them to pursue her husband for support through working with the state he fled to. Fortunately for Karen, this turned out to be a valuable resource for her. While URESA wasn't perfect, it helped her in a time of need.

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