Child Support Department Can Enforce Italian Support Order

In the case of Cima-Sorci v. Sorci, Father met Mother in Italy, where he was serving in the U.S. Air Force. They married in September of 2007, and their son was born in December of 2007. After Fathers deployment ended, Father returned to California and enrolled at the California Highway Patrol Academy. Mother and Child stayed in Italy until July of 2009, when they joined Father in California. The reunion was not successful, and in November of 2009, Mother and Child moved back to Italy, where Mother filed for divorce.

In February of 2010, an Italian Trial Court authorized Mother and Father to live separately, awarded custody of Child to Mother, and ordered Father to pay 1,000 Euros per month for child support and 500 Euros per month for spousal support, later reduced to 400. In May of 2013, Italian Trial Court granted Mother and Father a decree of separation, awarded Mother full custody of Child (due to conflict between Mother and Father), granted Father visitation in summer and during Christmas holiday, and ordered Father to continue paying child and spousal support in the amounts previously ordered.

Meanwhile, per Mothers request, the Sacramento County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) had been enforcing the temporary support order administratively since June of 2010. When Father objected to the administrative enforcement of the order, DCSS filed a Notice of Registration of Out-of-State Support Order, along with the required documentation and notice to Father regarding contesting registration.

Father then filed a timely Request for Hearing Regarding Registration of Support Order, asking Sacramento County Trial Court to vacate the registration on the grounds that Italy was not a state under Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. (This act limits the jurisdiction that can properly establish and modify child support orders and addresses the enforcement of child support obligations within the United States.) Father argued that Italian support law was vastly different from California support law in that it contained no formulas for calculating support, lacked presumption regarding spousal support in short marriages, and specified no age for terminating child support. In opposition, DCSS claimed that Father had the burden of proving that one of seven statutory defenses to registration of a foreign support order in California Family Code Section 4956(a) barred registration of this Italian support order and Father failed to meet that burden. After a hearing, Trial Court agreed that Father had not met his burden, declined to vacate registration order, and declined to issue statement of decision. Father appealed, but California Court of Appeals has now affirmed Trial Courts decision.

The Appellate Court has ruled that (1) Trial Court correctly determined that Father, and not DCSS, had the burden of showing that Italy is not a state under UIFSA; (2) Father failed to meet that burden; (3) the fact that Italian law differs in calculating support orders does not mean that its laws are not substantially similar to Californias, where, as here, Italian law recognizes validity of California support orders and is willing to enforce them; (4) focus must be on foreign jurisdictions laws and procedures for issuing and enforcing support orders, not on laws and procedures relating to support calculation; and (5) Fathers contentions that he was denied opportunity to present evidence and that Trial Court should have issued statement of decision are without merit.

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