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Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over child support

February 8, 2012

In addressing whether a trial court in Indiana erred in dismissing a woman’s petition for modification of child support previously entered in Maryland, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted an incongruity in that statutory scheme the leads to the “somewhat absurd result in this case.”

In Zuri K. Jackson v. Demetrius Holiness, No. 02A03-1103-RS-99, Zuri Jackson filed a petition for modification of child support in Indiana. She lived in Indiana, but her ex-husband, Demetrius Holiness, lived in Maryland, where the decree was registered. The two were originally married in Indiana but moved to Nevada, where they divorced. Holiness filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Indiana Code 31-18-6-11 says an Indiana tribunal may modify an order only if the child, obligee, or obligor do not live in the issuing state; the petitioner for modification is a nonresident of Indiana; and the respondent is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the Indiana tribunal; or all of the parties involved have filed a written consent providing Indiana may modify the order and assume jurisdiction. Since Jackson lives in Indiana and petitioned for modification, all the parties had to file consent with the court to have Indiana take over jurisdiction, which didn’t happen. Under Indiana statute, a court here can’t have subject matter jurisdiction to modify the order here, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

The appellate court held that the federal Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act doesn’t preempt the requirement that the child, obligee, or obligor do not live in the issuing state.

“It seems incongruous that a court that has personal jurisdiction over both parties to dissolve a marriage and adjudicate the incidences thereof or order support in the first instance could not modify an existing child support order,” he wrote. “Although the requirements of Section 31-18-6-11 are clear, the procedure for modifying an out-of-state child support order is less clear when Section 31-18-6-11 is considered in conjunction with other relevant statutes. However, because the incongruity between the statutory sections is a legislative matter, we must conclude that the trial court did not err in dismissing Mother’s petition to modify because she is not a non-resident petitioner as required by Section 31-18-6-11.”

 

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