Most states, like Kansas, have enacted a version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). A few, like Missouri, still have the predecessor act, the UCCJA, which operates much the same way in most instances. Recently, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that a Missouri court may have jurisdiction over the children and may issue custody orders pertaining to them, but may still lack personal jurisdiction over one of the parents. Therefore, the court may not order child support from the parent over which it lacks jurisdiction.
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act provides comity among states and determines which state is the most appropriate forum for seeking remedy. The Circuit court should make findings under those provisions. Rule and statute describe minimum contacts necessary to make a person subject to circuit court jurisdiction. Under those provisions, “liv[ing] in lawful marriage within” Missouri is more than passing through while traveling and appearances to enforce foreign orders. “It is not necessary to stand on your jurisdictional challenges and refuse to participate in the proceedings to preserve your objections to jurisdiction.” Circuit court lacked personal jurisdiction to render appellant liable for child support and marital debts.
The Court held as follows:
(1)The circuit court erred in asserting personal jurisdiction over wife because she and Husband never lived in lawful marriage in the State of Missouri. The circuit court lacked jurisdiction to subject her to an in personam judgment for child support and division of marital property (not within the State). The circuit court, therefore, erred in ordering Wife to pay child support in the amount of $278.00 per month and to pay certain marital debts. The circuit court did, however, have jurisdiction over the status of the marriage and could dissolve it.
(2) The Circuit Court of Clay County had the authority to make the child custody determination in this case under the UCCJA. The record established that the only other state that would have jurisdiction over this matter refused to assert jurisdiction and declined to exercise jurisdiction because Missouri was the more appropriate forum.
(3) The factual record established that the circuit court had the authority to proceed under the UCCJA and to determine the child custody issue. Case remanded to Circuit Court for further proceedings
The entire opinion can be read here