Successful Appeal of Divorce Modification Case

Ruling Declared Void for Lack of Jurisdiction In Divorce Modification Appeal

William K. “Chip” Bradford obtained a favorable resolution in a divorce modification appeal, where the appeals court voided a Circuit Court’s decree modifying a prior divorce decree regarding child support.  In this appeal, the parties had originally divorced in Hawaii while they were both stationed there in the military.  Later, they were sent to various military posts, with the mother being stationed for a brief time at Fort Rucker in Coffee County, Alabama.  While the mother was in Alabama, the father filed a Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) petition seeking to register the out of state decree and to have it modified to lower his child support payments.  The Circuit Court found in favor of the father, and lowered the child support payments by almost two-thirds.  To make matters worse, the Circuit Court order made the change in the child support retroactive for some seven months.

On appeal Bradford argued that the Circuit Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the father had failed to strictly comply with the requirements under the UIFSA law.  The Court of Civil Appeals agreed, holding:

Because the former husband did not file the requisite sworn statement, he failed to strictly comply with § 30–3A–602 in registering, in their entirety, the Hawaii divorce judgment and the Hawaii amended judgment. Because the Hawaii divorce judgment and the Hawaii amended judgment were not registered in strict compliance with the UIFSA, the former husband’s petition for modification did not trigger the subject-matter jurisdiction of the trial court.

Because the Circuit Court never obtained proper jurisdiction, its order modifying child support was void

Herzog v. Stonerook, ____ So.3d ____ (August 8, 2014)

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