Court erred in granting mom relief from dad’s Wyoming order

January 12, 2016

An Indiana trial court erred when it granted a mother’s request for Trial Rule 60(B) relief from a Wyoming court order that reduced a father’s child support arrearage to zero.

The mother won a court order in December 2014 declaring the Wyoming order null and void, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Tuesday, finding the trial court also erred in determining that neither party could take the dependent exemption for their children on their income taxes.

Michael and Shanna Hays divorced in Wyoming in 2008 and Michael was ordered to pay support of $777 per month for three minor children in Shanna’s custody. As the parents moved and custody of the children changed over time, a court in Wyoming in 2013 set arrears at zero after Shanna was defaulted in that case.

Among other findings, Special Judge William E. Weikert in Perry Circuit Court granted Shanna relief because Wyoming lacked jurisdiction in the case since Michael and a child he cared for since had moved to Wisconsin.

Applying the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, Judge Margret Robb wrote, “Regardless of whether Wyoming had continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify the child support order, however, it had had continuing jurisdiction to enforce the order. … Here, the Wyoming court order states the court conducted ‘a thorough inquiry of the other jurisdictions potentially involved in this matter [and] concluded that it does have jurisdiction over the child support arrears determination. … Indiana may not reconsider the Wyoming court’s determination regarding jurisdiction.”

The panel in Michael G. Hays v. Shanna Hays, 62A04-1501-DR-33, also held the trial court erred by ruling that neither party may take income tax exemptions for their dependent children even after both parties asked the court to allocate tax exemptions for 2012.

“Father is correct that the trial court’s order should be vacated so the tax exemptions for 2012 and subsequent years can be allocated,” Robb wrote. The case is remanded for further proceedings.


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