Federal child support act trumps state act

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today that a federal act supersedes Indiana's statute regarding exclusive jurisdiction over two parties' child support order and affirmed the transfer of exclusive jurisdiction to a California court. In its ruling, the court had to decide whether or not the father still was a resident of Indiana in order to determine if the federal act applied to him. In In re the marriage of Mahmoud M. Basileh v. Arwa G. Alghusain, No. 29A02-0712-CV-1132, the Court of Appeals concluded the federal Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act controls over Indiana Code Section 31-18-2-5, Indiana's adoption of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. Another panel of the Court of Appeals had previously ruled that the FFCCSOA's section pertaining to a state's continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over its own child support orders mirrors Indiana Code.

At issue was whether the Indiana court needed consent of both the mother, Arwa Alghusain, and father, Mahmoud Basileh, to grant Alghusain's motion to transfer jurisdiction over her children's child support matters to her home county of Monterey County, Calif. Basileh never consented to the change of jurisdiction and maintained that he was still a resident of Indiana even though he moved out of the country to take care of a sick relative and find employment. The UIFSA doesn't allow for an out-of-state transfer of exclusive jurisdiction when the parties or children don't reside in the state until all the parties file a written consent with the court. Under the FFCCSOA, Indiana wouldn't have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction if it isn't the child's state or the residence of one of the parties. In its decision to affirm the transfer of exclusive jurisdiction, the appellate court had to discern if the father was considered domiciled in Indiana at the time of the trial court's order. Basileh presented evidence from two filings to the trial court pertaining to the reasons for his move from Indiana, but the record contains no documentation of his claims he continues to rent a storage facility here, has an Indiana bank account, or has a permanent address in the state, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. In addition, the father's two filings have inconsistencies regarding the time he said he left Indiana to move overseas. Based on the evidence, Basileh failed to show a subjective intent to return to Indiana, she wrote. The appellate court found Basileh is no longer domiciled in Indiana and the state is not his place of residence for purposes of the FFCCSOA. As such, Indiana no longer has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the parties' child support order. In a footnote, the court encourages the Indiana General Assembly to revisit the language of I.C. Section 31-18-2-5(a) given the court's conclusion this subsection conflicts with federal law.

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