Clemmons v Office of Child Support Enforcement

Decision Date21 June 2001
Docket Number01-258
Citation47 S.W.3d 227
PartiesStephen CLEMMONS v. OFFICE of CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT 01-258 Supreme Court of Arkansas Opinion delivered
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

1. Appeal & error -- petition for review -- treated as if originally filed in supreme court. -- Upon a petition for review, the supreme court considers the case as though it were originally filed in the supreme court.

2. Appeal & error -- chancery cases -- when reversed. -- Although the supreme court reviews chancery cases de novo on the record, it will not reverse a finding of fact by the chancellor unless it is clearly erroneous.

3. Parent & child -- custodial parent's assignment of collection rights to Missouri valid -- Arkansas recognizes collection orders from other states. -- Where the custodial parent's assignment of her collection rights to Missouri was a valid assignment under Missouri law, and Arkansas recognizes collection orders for other states pursuant to Arkansas's Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, there was no issue regarding legitimacy of the assignment to collect arrearages and transfer of that collection right to appellee pursuant to Missouri and Arkansas law.

4. Parent & child -- pursuing collection of arrearages for support ordered in prior judgment -- applicable statute. -- Where appellee was pursuing collection of support arrearages for support ordered in a prior judgment, Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-14-236 (Repl. 1998) was applicable; the statute, which specifically applies to the collection of child-support arrearages, indicates that the "moving party" can be the custodial parent, any person or agency to whom custody of a minor child has been given or relinquished, a minor child's guardian or next friend, OCSE when rights have been assigned, or the child himself or herself once he or she reaches the age of majority; however, this statute does not indicate whether anyone is the exclusive party to pursue an action.

5. Statutes -- construction -- standard of review. -- The supreme court reviews issues of statutory construction de novo, as it is for that court to decide what a statute means; the supreme court is not bound by the trial court's decision; however, in the absence of a showing that the trial court erred, its interpretation will be accepted as correct on appeal.

6. Statutes -- construction -- basic rule. -- The basic rule of statutory construction is to give effect to the intent of the General Assembly; in determining the meaning of a statute, the first rule is to construe it just as it reads, giving the words their ordinary and usually accepted meaning in common language; the statute must be construed so that no word is left void or superfluous and in such a way that meaning and effect is given to every word therein, if possible.

7. Statutes -- construction -- resort to rules of statutory interpretation. -- If the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous and conveys a clear and definite meaning, there is no occasion for resorting to rules of statutory interpretation; where the meaning is not clear, the supreme court looks to the language of the statute, the subject matter, the object to be accomplished, the purpose to be served, the remedy provided, the legislative history, and other appropriate means that shed light on the subject; statutes relating to the same subject are said to be in pari materia and should be read in a harmonious manner, if possible.

8. Parent & child -- action for collection of child-support arrearages -- no statutory limitation on who can pursue. -- In Ark. Code Ann. § 9-14-236, the list of potential moving parties is set off by the word "or" to indicate who the alternative moving parties may be; had the General Assembly meant to limit child-support arrearage actions brought after the child reaches majority to those brought by the child, it would have specifically made such a statement in the statute rather than including the child of majority in a list of alternative moving parties; therefore, this statute does not place a limitation on who can pursue an action for collection of child-support arrearages from the list of possible parties.

9. Parent & child -- action for collection of child-support arrearages -- case law supported conclusion that there was no statutory limitation on who can pursue. -- In addition to the wording of the statute, Arkansas case law has found that the custodial parent of a minor child, the adult child, and the parent, even after the child reaches majority, may seek child-support arrearages; in no case has the supreme court held that only the adult child has the right to pursue the arrearage.

10. Parent & child -- right to pursue child-support arrearages belongs either to custodial parent or to child, whether of majority or not -- case law in support. -- The strongest support for the proposition that the right to pursue child-support arrearages belongs either to a custodial parent or to the child, whether of majority or not, is Darr v. Bankston, 327 Ark. 723, 940 S.W.2d 481 (1997), which indicates that the right to the payments equally belongs to the "custodial parent," the parent who had custody of the children when the support was ordered; based on Darr, "custodial parent" as listed in the statute necessarily must be a designation of the parent who maintains the right to collect ordered support rather than the parent in whose custody a minor child currently resides; entitlement to payment of child support installments vests in the custodial parent as they accrue, and that parent is entitled to judgment as a matter of right; the statute contemplates one support obligation that may be pursued by different persons at different times; case law indicate that once a child reaches majority, whoever files the collection action first is allowed the right and ability to collect.

11. Parent & child -- right to pursue child-support arrearages belongs either to custodial parent or to child -- differences between statutes also supported this conclusion. -- The differences between Ark. Code Ann. § 9-14-105 (Repl. 1998) and § 9-14-236 provided further support for the determination that the right to pursue child-support arrearages belongs either to a custodial parent or to the child, whether of majority or not; in Ark. Code Ann. § 9-14-105(b), the petitioning party may be "any parent having physical custody of a minor child," while in Ark. Code Ann. § 9-14-236(a), the "moving party" may be the "custodial parent"; again, had the General Assembly meant to confer the right to collect arrearages only upon the "parent having physical custody of a minor child" until the child reached majority, and then only upon the adult child, it clearly would have so stated rather than using the term "custodial parent"; therefore, the supreme court determined that the mother as custodial parent retained the right to pursue child-support arrearages even after the child reached age eighteen.

12. Limitation of actions -- child-support arrearages. -- The Arkansas statute of limitation bars all claims for child-support arrearages that have accrued prior to March 29, 1986.

13. Limitation of actions -- Uniform Interstate Family Support Act -- applicable statute of limitations. -- In Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) arrearage proceedings, the applicable statute of limitations is the longer of the statute of limitations under Arkansas law or the state issuing the support order.

14. Limitation of actions -- determining which of two state's limitations is longer -- two-step analysis. -- Determining which is the longer of the statute of limitations under Arkansas law or the state issuing the support order requires a two-step analysis; first, the court must consider whether there are differing limitations on the time that a custodial parent or child of majority may initiate a proceeding to collect support arrearages; second, the court must look at the longer of the two statutes allowing how far back collection of support arrearages is allowed.

15. Limitation of actions -- limitations on time that custodial parent or child of majority may initiate proceeding to collect support arrearages -- custodial parent timely filed action under either state's laws. -- Where both Arkansas and California law allow a child of majority or custodial parent to bring an action for support arrearages at least up to five years after the child turns eighteen, or up through age twenty-three, and the custodial parent filed the action here within five years of the child's eighteenth birthday, under either Arkansas or California law she timely filed her action to collect arrearages.

16. Parent & child -- child-support arrearage -- California law applicable to UIFSA action. -- Because California law allowed for collection of the entire child-support arrearage, and Arkansas law allowed recovery for only part of the arrearage, the law of California was applicable in this UIFSA action; therefore, the chancellor was not clearly erroneous in granting the entire amount of child-support arrearage of $20,775.

17. Appeal & error -- law-of-case doctrine -- prevents issueraised in prior appeal from being raised in subsequent appeal. -- The law-of-the-case doctrine provides that on second appeal the decision of the first appeal becomes law of the case, and is conclusive of every question of law or fact decided in the former appeal, and also of those that might have been, but were not, presented; the doctrine prevents an issue raised in a prior appeal from being raised in a subsequent appeal, and provides that a decision of an appellate court establishes the law of the case for the trial upon remand and for the appellate court itself upon subsequent review; the doctrine extends to issues of constitutional law.

18. Appeal & error -- law-of-case defense -- affirmative defense that cannot be raised for first time on appeal. -- Law of the case, like res judicata, is an affirmative defense to be raised at the trial court level and presents no...

To continue reading

Request your trial
47 cases
  • Linder v. Linder
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • April 25, 2002
    ... ... : Lea Ann Linder, mother of Brandon Linder, the minor child around whom this litigation revolves; Cleta Johnson, Lea ... the efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers. After months of attempting to locate the two, ...          Clemmons v. Office of Child Support Enforcement, 345 Ark. 330, 346, ... ...
  • Jegley v. Picado
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • July 5, 2002
    ... ... and an injunction against future enforcement of the statute. They assert that the statute violates their ... loss of jobs, professional licenses, housing, and child custody. According to appellees, the statute brands them ... substituted in place of Bryant when he assumed the office of Attorney General. The circuit court later granted ... Page 336 ... presented by the moving party in support of the motion leave a material fact unanswered. Id. The ... Clemmons v. Office of Child Support Enforcement, 345 Ark. 330, 47 ... ...
  • Lake View Sch. Dist. No. 25 v. Huckabee
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • November 21, 2002
    ... ... school districts, and school district taxpayers who support the system. On November 5, 1996, the people of Arkansas ... of its children an education adequate to give the child the opportunity to realize his potential, enrich his life ... Marquez, 338 Ark. 636, 999 S.W.2d 678 (1999); Office of Child Support Enforcement v. Eagle, 336 Ark. 51, 983 ...          Clemmons v. Office of Child Support Enforcement, 345 Ark. 330, 346, ... ...
  • Jegley v Picado
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • July 5, 2002
    ... ... and an injunction against future enforcement of the statute. They assert that the statute violates ... loss of jobs, professional licenses, housing, and child custody. According to appellees, the statute brands them ... substituted in place of Bryant when he assumed the office of Attorney General. The circuit court later granted ... evidentiary items presented by the moving party in support of the motion leave a material fact unanswered. Id. The ... Clemmons v. Office of Child Support Enforcement, 345 Ark. 330, 47 ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT