ILNews

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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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