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Court rules on transfer to California court

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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a trial court's decision to relinquish its jurisdiction over child support matters to a California trial court. In its opinion, the high court examined the interplay between the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

In Mahmoud M. Basileh v. Arwa G. Alghusain, No. 29S02-0810-CV-584, father Mahmoud Basileh appealed the trial court's transfer of visitation, custody, and child support matters to Superior Court of Monterey County, Calif., where mother Arwa Alghusain relocated with their children shortly after the couple divorced in Hamilton County, Ind. Basileh had also moved overseas to take care of his mother and no longer lived in Indiana. He objected to Alghusain's petition to transfer jurisdiction and he never filed a written consent to the transfer. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, finding Basileh was no longer a resident of the state within the meaning of the FFCCSOA and that act preempts the UIFSA because of a conflict between the two statutes.

The high court summarily affirmed the Court of Appeals' determination concerning residency and examined the preemption issue in its opinion released today. The justices examined the history behind the acts and Indiana's adoption of its UIFSA and concluded that Congress didn't intend for the FFCCSOA to preempt the UIFSA and that it appeared the FFCCSOA was intended to follow the contours of UIFSA, wrote Justice Robert Rucker. In addition, the nonresidency requirement and consent requirement of Indiana's version of the UIFSA are closely modeled after the federal version of the UIFSA.

The Court of Appeals interpreted the Indiana statute to say for the state to no longer retain jurisdiction, both the nonresidency requirement and the written consent requirement must be met. But the Supreme Court found this part of the statute to be ambiguous and looked to legislative intent. The UIFSA contains a consent requirement from both parties that the FFCCSOA does not, the justice noted.

The justices found the language in the federal act to be a strong indicator of the legislative intent when it enacted the Indiana statute in that the nonresidency requirement and the consent requirement of the statute are separate and alternative methods by which an Indiana court may maintain its continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a child support order. As such, both the absence of the parties and consent before a court loses jurisdiction isn't required.

"In this case it is of no moment that the parties did not file a written consent with the Indiana court for the California court to modify the Indiana support order. Rather, the Indiana court lost its jurisdiction because Father, like Mother and the children, is no longer an Indiana resident," wrote Justice Rucker.

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