Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

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State Ex Rel. Mahony v. St. John

Citation. State ex rel. Attorney Gen. v. St. John, 21 Kan. 591, 1879 Kan. LEXIS 37 (Kan. 1879)

Brief Fact Summary. Wife brought a divorce decree in Washington where she formerly lived with her husband and child. Wyoming, the domicile of the husband, refused to honor the decree based on a lack of jurisdiction.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The UIFSA, as adopted by both states requires a state to honor decrees by foreign states so long as the foreign state’s assumption of personal jurisdiction over appellee was consistent with that state’s general laws of jurisdiction as well as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

Facts. In 1985 Sheree Mahoney was born in Casper, Wyoming to Sherrill Mahoney and Benjamin St. John, III (appellee). Appellee verbally acknowledged fatherhood of Sheree. In 1986 Sherrill and Sheree relocated to Washington. In 1992 Sherrill brought a paternity action against appellee, who continued to reside in Casper, in the State of Washington. Appellee summoned Sherrill back to Casper, where the two were married in 1993. The couple and their daughter returned to Washington, but nine months later the two separated with appellee returning to Casper. Sherrill filed a petition for divorce in Washington, achieving personal service upon appellee in Washington. Appellee chose to default and judgment was entered against him for child support arrearages. When Washington moved to enforce the obligation pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) appellee contested Washington’s exercise of in personam jurisdiction over a Wyoming resident. The Wyoming court held that
the Washington order was invalid because appellee had not been personally served within the boundries of Whashington based on its view that service within the state’s boundaries is a requisite to an exercise of in personam jurisdiction in a Wyoming court. The State of Washington appealed.

Issue. Did the Washington court have and exercise good and sufficient personal jurisdiction over appellee at the time the decree and order of support were entered?

Held. Washington’s assumption of personal jurisdiction over appellee was consistent with that state’s general laws of jurisdiction as well as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.
The UIFSA requires Wyoming courts to recognize and enforce a registered order if the issuing tribunal has jurisdiction. Appellee admits to residing with his wife and child in Washington while gainfully employed there. Pursuant to Washington law, a person not a citizen of the state can have jurisdiction exercised upon him if living in a marital relationship within the state notwithstanding subsequent departure from the state. Furthermore, the law is consistent with expressions found in both states’ codifications of the UIFSA. Therefore under the Full Faith and Credit Clause this Court must enforce a support order issued by a foreign court, because the court enjoyed personal jurisdiction over the obligor.

Discussion. The Court upholds the purpose of the UIFSA, which is designed to promote consistency and efficiency in multistate support cases.