FAMILY LAW ARTICLES
Hi, I’m Ben Vojtik. I’m here to talk to you about personal jurisdiction in family law cases. Now, personal jurisdiction is required for a court to make orders affecting your person. Can the court order you to pay child support? Spousal support? Attorneys fees and costs? Can the court divide your property? The court needs personal jurisdiction to do these things. Now personal jurisdiction can be acquired in one of four ways.
The first, consent. If you don’t bring the personal jurisdiction objection in your first pleading, you waive the objection and effectively consent to that state exercising jurisdiction over your person. Similarly, if you wait until past the deadline for you to file a response without raising a personal jurisdiction objection, you waive the objection and consent to that court exercising personal jurisdiction over you. It’s the first thing that needs to be done in any case if you intend to raise it. There are a few exceptions. California does have a little bit of a carve-out for ex parte relief and ex parte hearings, however, you still do need to raise this objection and you should raise this objection at that hearing so that the court understands that it isn’t making orders relying on your failure to object.
Now another way is domicile. Are you domiciled in the state or is it your permanent place of residency? Now, you can reside in a state without it being your domicile. This is fairly common with military service members. Often they are stationed in a state and they don’t intend to permanently reside there. That state does not have personal jurisdiction over them by virtue of domicile. As far as considerations for whether a state is a permanent place of residence, often the court will consider what state you pay tax returns in, what state you’re registered to vote, or what state your driver’s license is.
Now, another way is service of process. If you are personally served with the summons and petition in the forum state, that state has personal jurisdiction over you and it can make all the orders that we were talking about. Now you can still try to change jurisdiction based on venue or forum, but it wouldn’t be a personal jurisdiction objection.
Now the fourth way is minimum contacts. Are your contacts with the forum state sufficient for that state to exercise personal jurisdiction over you? How often are you in the state? Why do you go to the state? How often are you there for business? How often do you vacation there? Do you have a residence there? Did you have sex in the state that resulted in a minor child or did you intend for sex to result in a minor child in that forum state? Did you take your minor child to the state for medical care?
All of these are ways for the forum state to have personal jurisdiction over your person. Now, there are of course exceptions. The states don’t want to discourage reasonable visitation schedules. Just because you go to a state to pick up your child and return to the state in which you reside, that isn’t a waiver of jurisdiction. Similarly, just occasionally going and meeting with people in the forum state isn’t a waiver of jurisdiction. There are a lot of things that the court considers with this topic and it really is a totality of circumstances discussion. Now just because the forum state has jurisdiction over you by virtue of any of those four reasons, doesn’t necessarily mean that it has orders to affect all of your property and the big exception that I’m thinking about is military retired pay. Now the Federal Law requires that for a state to have jurisdiction to divide military retired pay that the military service member has to be domiciled in the state, a resident of that state but not due to military orders or consents to that jurisdiction.
So again, if you are a military service member it would probably be very wise for you to consult with an attorney before consenting to jurisdiction. Now, considerations are going to be whether that state has favorable laws as opposed to the state in which you would otherwise be domiciled in or have residency. So again, it’s very important for you to contact an attorney. As said before you have to move fast and I hope that this video was helpful. Good luck. Thank you.