Not every court has jurisdiction over a divorce, support, or custody matter.

The authority of the court must comply with due process by providing an individual with notice and a hearing before a court can deprive any person of their property.  Personal Jurisdiction is the term used to describe the authority of the court over a person or a person’s property.  An Order from a court that lacks personal jurisdiction over an individual is unenforceable.  Therefore, a court order for dissolution or division of assets would be worthless in a divorce proceeding if the court lacks personal jurisdiction over both the individual parties.

Generally, when both parties seeking a divorce live in the same state there is no question of jurisdiction.  Because different states have differing residency requirements, the question of jurisdiction may arise in several situations where parties move to different states then seek dissolution of marriage.  The question of jurisdiction may arise when one party moves out of state because one party wants to obtain an easier divorce or to make it more difficult for the other spouse to get a divorce. 

A matter of jurisdiction is further complicated when there is a child from the marriage and one party leaves the state with the child before seeking dissolution.  During a determination of jurisdiction by a court over a child or child support matter the court will consider several factors, which may change over time.  In some cases, a court having personal jurisdiction may decline to exercise that jurisdiction because the best interest of the child may be better served by another jurisdiction. 

Usually, questions of jurisdiction involving children occur in more complex cases of interstate custody disputes.  The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (“UCCJA”) or its successor, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) are uniform acts that been adopted in every state.  These acts were intended to eliminate conflicting decrees that result from concurring jurisdictions in more than one state.  Under the UCCJEA, a state may exercise jurisdiction if it is the home state of the child at the time the proceeding began or within six months of the proceedings and a parent still resides in the jurisdiction.  A child’s home state is the state in which a child lived with a parent for at least (6) six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding.

In addition, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (“PKPA”) is a federal act, which permits  a state to modify an out-of-state decree only when the forum state has jurisdiction under its own state law and under the PKPA and the original forum state either no longer has jurisdiction or has retained jurisdiction but refused to exercise its jurisdiction.

If you have a question of jurisdiction in a dissolution of marriage, support, or interstate child custody matter call the Law Office of Garrett J. Strahl at 904-342-1050.

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