Watkins v. Benjamin (North Carolina 2019)

No. COA18-894 (N.C. Ct. App. 2019)
August 2019

For purposes of UIFSA jurisdiction, a new child support order isn’t established because the obligor of the order changes. The parents divorced in North Carolina, and the order granted custody to the father and ordered the mother to pay support. The mother moved to Maryland and the children eventually came to live with her. The parties engaged in ongoing litigation. The mother filed for child support in Maryland, which was dismissed. The father filed to clarify child support in the North Carolina action. The North Carolina court found it had continuing exclusive jurisdiction and set the father’s support obligation. The mother appealed, arguing that North Carolina didn’t have jurisdiction to establish a new support order. The North Carolina Court of Appeals disagreed. It found this action was a modification of an existing order, not the establishment of a new order. A support order benefits a child, regardless of who pays. The fact that the obligor changes doesn’t mean a new order is established. Therefore, the North Carolina court had continuing exclusive jurisdiction to modify the order.