Glover v. Glover

Decision Date13 November 2012
Docket NumberNo. 1 CA–CV 11–0716.,1 CA–CV 11–0716.
Citation231 Ariz. 1,289 P.3d 12,647 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 13
PartiesIn re the Marriage of Jenifer GLOVER, Petitioner/Appellant, v. Terrance A. GLOVER, Respondent/Appellee.
CourtArizona Court of Appeals

Katz & Bloom, P.L.C. By Norman M. Katz, Jay R. Bloom, Phoenix, Attorneys for Petitioner/Appellant.

Kielsky Rike PLLC By Michael Kielsky, Scottsdale, Attorneys for Respondent/Appellee.

Thomas C. Horne, Attorney General By Jamie R. Heller, Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae State of Arizona.


TIMMER, Presiding Judge.

¶ 1 This appeal presents our first opportunity to decide whether a party must register a foreign child support order in compliance with Arizona's version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) sections 25–1201 to –1342 (West 2012),FN1 to confer subject matter jurisdiction on an Arizona court to modify the order. For the reasons that follow, we hold that compliance with the registration requirements is necessary to confer subject matter jurisdiction on the court. Because no party registered the foreign child support order at issue in this case, the superior court lacked jurisdiction to modify the order and the court's order purporting to do so is void. Because a void order or judgment cannot support an appeal, we dismiss the appeal and instruct the court to vacate the order.


¶ 2 Jenifer Glover (Mother) and Terrance A. Glover (Father) married in 1992, and their son (“Son”) was born five years later. Mother subsequently petitioned for divorce in a Massachusetts court. While the petition was pending, the parties entered in a written separation agreement addressing, among other things, child support, parenting time, and other matters related to Son's upbringing.

¶ 3 The Massachusetts court issued a judgment of divorce nisi on October 5, 2000, which became absolute on January 5, 2001 (the “Massachusetts judgment” or “the judgment”).FN2 The court required the parties to comply with the separation agreement, incorporated the agreement by reference into the judgment, and explicitly merged the “child related provisions” into the judgment.

¶ 4 Father, Mother, and Son moved to Arizona. On January 23, 2006, Father filed a certified copy of the Massachusetts judgment in the superior court in Maricopa County and simultaneously petitioned to modify the judgment by, among other things, increasing his parenting time and adjusting his child support obligation in accordance with the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Mother responded by asking the court to deny the petition, order Father to comply with the Massachusetts judgment, and order Father to pay approximately $6,000 in child support arrearages.

¶ 5 The parties then entered in an agreement pursuant to Arizona Rule of Family Law Procedure (“Rule”) 69 and orally placed the terms on the record. On October 26, the court entered a stipulated order regarding all terms of the Rule 69 agreement except those concerning Father's child support obligation. The order states [b]y separate order the parties have modified Father's child support obligation effective May 1, 2006.” Notwithstanding that reference, no such order appears to exist. Father, however, paid Mother a reduced amount of monthly child support for the next four years and without objection.

¶ 6 On August 6, 2010, the State appeared in the case pursuant to A.R.S. § 25–509, which authorizes the State to initiate proceedings or intervene in existing cases for the limited purpose of being heard regarding ongoing and past-due child support. The State, using the Massachusetts judgment, calculated Father's child support arrearages and obtained an order of assignment of wages from Father's employer. Father reacted by moving to retroactively modify the Massachusetts judgment by reducing Father's child support obligation as reflected in the parties' Rule 69 agreement. Mother opposed the motion, contending the parties had agreed only to reduce Father's child support obligation on a temporary basis. After conducting a hearing, the court granted Father's motion and ruled the parties had agreed to reduce Father's child support obligation on an ongoing basis effective May 1, 2006. This timely appeal followed.


¶ 7 Although Mother raises multiple challenges to the order modifying the Massachusetts judgment, one issue is dispositive: Did the superior court acquire subject matter jurisdiction over the Massachusetts judgment to enable the court to modify the child support terms of the judgment?


[1] ¶ 8 Mother argues the superior court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to reduce Father's child support obligation because the Massachusetts judgment was never registered in Arizona pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (2001) (“UIFSA”), which Arizona has adopted. A.R.S. §§ 25–1201 to –1342. Although Mother never raised the issue in the superior court, a court's subject matter jurisdiction can be challenged for the first time on appeal. Ames v. State, 143 Ariz. 548, 552, 694 P.2d 836, 840 (App.1985). Father responds he properly registered the Massachusetts judgment. Alternatively, he essentially asserts the registration requirements of Arizona's version of UIFSA (“AUIFSA”) are procedural rather than jurisdictional, and Mother waived any non-compliance with AUIFSA by failing to object in the 2006 proceedings. See Health for Life Brands, Inc. v. Powley, 203 Ariz. 536, 538, ¶¶ 11–12, 57 P.3d 726, 728 (App.2002) (recognizing that while party can waive procedural defects it never waives challenge to court's subject matter jurisdiction). If Father registered the Massachusetts judgment in Arizona, we need not address whether registration serves as a prerequisite to conferring subject matter jurisdiction. We therefore initially address his compliance with the registration provisions.


¶ 9 Our courts are required to enforce a child support order issued by another state in compliance with the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1738B (West 2012) (“FFCCSOA”), and cannot modify such orders except as set forth under that Act. 28 U.S.C. § 1738B(a)(2). As relevant here, FFCCSOA permits a state court with jurisdiction over the non-moving party to modify a foreign child support order when the moving party registers the order in the non-issuing state and at least one other prerequisite not at issue here is satisfied.FN3 28 U.S.C. § 1738B(e), (i).

¶ 10 AUIFSA sets forth the procedures for registering a child support order issued by another state court:

A. A support order ... of another state may be registered in this state by sending the following documents and information to the appropriate tribunal in this state:

1. A letter of transmittal to the tribunal requesting registration and enforcement.

2. Two copies, including one certified copy, of the order to be registered, including any modification of the order.

3. A sworn statement by the person requesting registration or a certified statement by the custodian of the records showing the amount of any arrearage.

4. The name of the obligor and, if known:

(a) The obligor's address and social security number....

(b) The name and address of the obligor's employer and any other source of income of the obligor.

(c) A description and the location of property of the obligor in this state not exempt from execution.

5. Except as otherwise provided in § 25–1252, the name and address of the obligee and, if applicable, the person to whom support payments are to be remitted.

A.R.S. § 25–1302(A). Upon receiving the request, the court must file the support order as a foreign judgment. A.R.S. § 25–1302(B). Upon filing, the order is “registered.” A.R.S. § 25–1303(A). The court must then provide notice of the registration to the non-registering party and inform that party of the ability to contest the validity or enforceability of the order and dispute any claimed arrearages and the ramifications for not doing so. A.R.S. § 25–1305(A), (B). If the non-registering party contests the order, the superior court must conduct a hearing and adjudicate the contest. A.R.S. § 25–1306(C). If the non-registering party fails to contest the order within twenty days of service, it is confirmed by operation of law. A.R.S. § 25–1306(B). Confirmation precludes any challenge to the order on a basis that could have been asserted at the time of registration. A.R.S. § 25–1308.

¶ 11 Father does not dispute he failed to comply with A.R.S. § 25–1302(A) by neglecting to file (1) a letter with the court asking for registration and enforcement, (2) a certified and additional copy of the Massachusetts judgment with the separation agreement attached to establish the child support terms, FN4 and, (3) if warranted, a sworn statement showing the amount of any arrearage. Rather, he argues the registration requirements of § 25–1302(A) are permissive as the statute provides that [a] support order ... may [rather than ‘shall’] be registered in this state” in the manner set forth in that statute. A.R.S. § 25–1302(A). It follows, Father contends, that the legislature intended to allow parties to use alternate means to enforce a child support order issued in another state. Because he filed the Massachusetts judgment in compliance with Arizona's version of the Revised Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (“AUEFJA”), A.R.S. §§ 12–1701 to –1708,FN5 thereby providing notice to Mother, he asserts the judgment was properly before the court for enforcement and modification.

[2] [3] ¶ 12 We interpret the registration requirements of AUIFSA de novo. Escamilla v. Cuello, 230 Ariz. 202, 205, ¶ 13, 282 P.3d 403, 406 (2012). In doing so, we determine and give effect to the legislature's intent initially by applying the plain language of the statutory provisions. City of Casa Grande v. Ariz. Water Co., 199 Ariz. 547, 550, ¶ 6, 20 P.3d 590, 593 (App.2001). We also consider the context, purpose, and effects...

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