In the days of my parents who were born in the 1920’s, persons typically lived in the small towns or cities in which they were born and remained there carrying on the family farms or businesses or following the trades or professions of their parents. In today’s society, people are much more mobile. Persons move to find employment, attend college, or due to military assignments. Many individuals who have had their marriage terminated in another State may find themselves now living in the Miami Valley area. Some of those persons are parents of minor children. So, if Post-Decree problems occur, to which Court do they go for help or assistance?
I should explain that “Post-Decree” refers to situations which occur after the parties’ Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce or after the parties’ Decree of Dissolution of Marriage have been filed. So, the parties’ marriage has ended but issues may continue regarding spousal support, child support, parenting time schedules, transportation, etc. If the parties’ Final Decree of Divorce or Final Decree of Dissolution was filed in a state other than the State of Ohio, that Decree is referred to as a “foreign decree”. It is “foreign” in the sense that it was not filed in this State.
I was involved in a case wherein Wife/Mother and Husband/Father terminated their marriage by a dissolution proceeding in the State of Georgia. In mid-February, 2009, Mother relocated to this area in order to accept a teaching position at the School of Nursing at Sinclair College. Husband/Father resides in the State of Michigan. There are Post-Decree problems related to child support, parenting time schedules, transportation for visitation, and Husband’s failure to pay those liabilities he was supposed to pay per the Decree. His failure to pay the liabilities assigned to him has led to a very negative credit report for Wife/Mother. She needed relief for her and the minor children associated with all of the foregoing issues or problems. So where does she file? Which Court does she turn to for relief?
Because Mother and the two minor children relocated from Georgia to the State of Ohio in February, 2009, Ohio became the “home state” of the children after they resided here for six (6) months. Accordingly, Ohio became the “home state” of the minor children on or about mid-August, 2009, allowing us to file her multi-branch motion here in Ohio. Subsequent to that date, I assisted my client in registering her “foreign decree” in this State.
Pleadings that had to be prepared to accomplish the foregoing included the following:
- Petition to Register a Foreign Support Order and to Register a Foreign Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
- Mother’s Affidavit in Support of her Petition.
- Mother’s Parenting Proceeding Affidavit.
- Mother’s Affidavit of Financial Disclosure.
- Mother’s Title IV-D Application for Child Support Services.
- Entry and Order to Register a Foreign Support Order and a Foreign Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and Notice of Hearing.
An important point to be emphasized for clients and attorneys, the Petition to Register the Foreign Support Order and Foreign Decree must have a time-stamped and certified copy of the Foreign Order/Decree attached thereto. Many times the client is reluctant to “give up” their certified copy…another one can always be obtained from the original Court.
In the last pleading enumerated, the Entry and Order to Register Foreign Support Order and Decree, the former Husband was advised that the Foreign Decree would be registered as an Order of the Montgomery County, Ohio, Domestic Relations Court unless the former Husband could establish one of several defenses:
- That the Order was obtained by fraud.
- That the Order has been vacated, suspended, or modified by a later Order.
- That the issuing tribunal has stayed the Order pending appeal.
- That there is a defense under law of this state to the remedy sought.
- That full or partial payment has been made.
- That the statute of limitations under ORC Section 3115.41 precludes enforcement of some or all of the arrearages.
Father was not able to establish any of the above defenses and Wife’s Petition to Register a Foreign Support Order and a Foreign Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage was granted. This allowed us to have a hearing set so that we could proceed on Mother’s multi-branch Motion for Relief.
There are many technical issues involved with this process of Registering a Foreign Court Order. If jurisdiction exists that the matter could still be litigated in two differing states, it makes sense to have a lawyer in the original state provide an opinion as to the anticipated outcome. Understand that support amounts can vary dramatically from state to state. Probable results can then be compared. So, considering the strategy of the jurisdictional issues can be very important! This is not something that should be attempted without the assistance of a family law attorney.
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.