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Trial court didn't have personal jurisdiction over serviceman

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed part of a dissolution decree after finding the Marion Superior Court lacked personal jurisdiction over the husband who was in the military overseas.

In In re: the marriage of Anthony J. Harris v. Teasha J. Harris, No. 49A04-0905-CV-256, Anthony Harris appealed the dissolution decree in which the court ordered custody of their child to his ex-wife, Teasha, that he pay child support and spousal support, and distributed the marital property. The trial court also denied his motion to correct errors.

Anthony is in the military; he and Teasha never lived in Indiana prior to their separation when she moved to Indiana and he was stationed in Germany. He declined to accept voluntary service of her notice of petition to dissolve the marriage in Marion Superior Court. He later filed for divorce and custody in a North Carolina court. Anthony didn't have an attorney for the Marion County proceedings and never attended them. The Indiana and North Carolina courts agreed Indiana would have jurisdiction.

After the dissolution order was entered, Anthony filed a motion to correct errors, which was denied. That was an error, the appellate court concluded because he didn't waive the claim of lack of personal jurisdiction based on his letter declining to accept voluntary service or the fact he was served in North Carolina, wrote Judge Elaine Brown.

The Marion Superior Court had jurisdiction to dissolve the Harrises' marriage, so the appellate court affirmed the decree of dissolution of the marriage. But the court didn't have jurisdiction to adjudicate the incidences of marriage or the child support. Anthony never lived in Indiana at any time during the marriage, so Indiana Trial Rule 4.4(A)(7) didn't apply, nor are there any sufficient contacts with the Marion Superior Court to establish personal jurisdiction over him.

The trial court also erred in making a determination as to custody of their child because it failed to follow the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act prior to entering the decree, wrote the judge. In addition, the trial court failed to allow Anthony an opportunity to participate and present facts before the decision on which state had jurisdiction.

The appellate court remanded with instructions to comply with the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act in the child custody proceedings and to make a decision on jurisdiction in accordance with the requirements of Indiana's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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