Washington County District Court File No. F3-01-3386.
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
1. Evidence of actual arrearages is not necessary for effective registration of a foreign child-support order for enforcement in Minnesota when the obligor fails to contest the registration of the order in a timely manner.
2. Minnesota courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction to modify a foreign child-support order when the petitioner is a Minnesota resident and the other parent lives elsewhere, unless the parties have filed written consents in the issuing tribunal for Minnesota courts to modify the order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the order.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Willis, Judge
Appellant-father appeals from a child-support magistrate's order modifying a child-support order issued in Massachusetts. Father argues that, under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, Minnesota courts lacked subject-matter jurisdiction either to enforce or to modify the Massachusetts order. Because we agree that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction to modify the order, we vacate the magistrate's order.
Appellant-father Robert Porro and respondent-mother Rhonda Porro dissolved their marriage in Massachusetts in June 1999. The divorce judgment granted the parties joint legal custody of their only child, with mother receiving sole physical custody. The judgment included an order establishing child-support obligations for the father. Mother and the child moved to Minnesota in June 1999 and remain residents of this state. In August 2000, father moved to Nebraska, where he continues to reside.
In June 2001, mother registered the Massachusetts divorce judgment and child-support order for enforcement and modification in Minnesota by submitting to the Washington County District Court the information required by Minn. Stat. § 518C.602(a) (2002), including an affidavit alleging that father was in arrears on his share of the child's health-care expenses. On August 3, she filed a motion in district court for modification of the support order. Father subsequently moved the court for an order denying mother's request for modification.
In December 2001, the child-support magistrate dismissed mother's motion after concluding that Minnesota courts lacked jurisdiction under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) to modify the child-support order. Mother moved the district court for review of the dismissal order. The district court granted review and concluded that, by invoking the power of Minnesota courts in his previously submitted motion, father had consented to the Minnesota court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over him. The order did not address whether Minnesota courts had subject-matter jurisdiction over the Massachusetts child-support order.
Father appealed the district court's order to this court, and we affirmed the district court's determination that Minnesota courts had personal jurisdiction over father in this dispute. See Porro v. Porro, No. C3-02-647 (Minn. App. Nov. 26, 2002). The opinion did not address the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction.
A hearing on mother's motion to modify the child-support order was held in January and February 2003. On March 26, the child-support magistrate filed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order modifying father's child-support obligations. In her findings, the magistrate noted that a question remained concerning whether Minnesota has subject-matter jurisdiction over the Massachusetts order and that she was ruling on the matter "on the assumption that the parties want the issues resolved by the State of Minnesota and that the parties will file written consent in the issuing tribunal as required by Minn. Stat. § 518C.611(a)(2) or otherwise contest the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction."
Father moved the magistrate under Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 376 to review her decision, contesting two of the modifications ordered by the magistrate and arguing for the first time that Minnesota courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over the Massachusetts order. The magistrate denied father's requests and concluded that she had "jurisdiction in this matter pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 484.702, subds. 1 and 3," which provide for the establishment of an expedited child-support hearing process for, inter alia, modification of child-support orders in IV-D cases.*fn1 The magistrate's findings of fact noted that the subject-matter jurisdiction requirements of Minn. ...