Monteith v. Monteith

Citation2021 ME 40,255 A.3d 1030
Decision Date27 July 2021
Docket NumberDocket: Cum-20-299
Parties Patricia H. Parks MONTEITH v. George H. MONTEITH Jr.
CourtMaine Supreme Court

Dana E. Prescott, Esq. (orally), Prescott Jamieson Murphy Law Group, LLC, Saco, for appellant Patricia H. Parks Monteith

Roger M. Champagne, Esq. (orally), Law Office of Roger M. Champagne, LLC, Biddeford, for appellee George H. Monteith Jr.

Panel: MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HUMPHREY, HORTON, and CONNORS, JJ.

GORMAN, J.

[¶1] Patricia H. Parks Monteith appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Cashman, J. ) declining Patricia's request to register in Maine a child support order issued in Maryland against George H. Monteith Jr. as to the parties’ four children. Patricia contends that the court erred by concluding that, because the Maryland court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter the order, it cannot be registered for enforcement in Maine. We disagree and affirm the judgment.

[¶2] This matter requires us to interpret, for the first time, certain provisions of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), 19-A M.R.S. §§ 2801-3401 (2021). To place the events of the present matter and the parties’ arguments in some context, we begin with the background of UIFSA.

[¶3] UIFSA was promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL)1 in 1992 to create a uniform national system for the issuance, enforcement, and modification of child and spousal support. UIFSA cmt., Prefatory Note(I)-(II), included with L.D. 986 (121st Legis. 2003); In re Ball, 168 N.H. 133, 123 A.3d 719, 723 (2015). In 1996, Congress mandated that enactment of UIFSA was a precondition to states’ eligibility for obtaining federal grant money to fund child and spousal support programs. Child Care and Development Block Grant Amendments of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C.S. § 666(f) (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 117-26, approved July 6, 2021)). By 1998, all fifty states had adopted UIFSA—Maine in 1993, P.L. 1993, ch. 690, §§ A-2, A-3 (effective July 1, 1995), and Maryland in 1996, 1996 Md. Laws 667.2 See UIFSA cmt., Prefatory Note(I); Ball, 123 A.3d at 723.

[¶4] The hallmark of UIFSA is the "one-order system," by which a child support order issued in one state is enforceable in every other state, but which prevents any other state from modifying that order except in limited circumstances, all for the purposes of eliminating competing child support orders or forum-shopping. Chalmers v. Burrough , 58 Kan.App.2d 531, 472 P.3d 586, 590-91 (2020) (stating that, before UIFSA, "often multiple, inconsistent obligations exist[ed] for the same parent" and there was "injustice in that parents could void their responsibility by moving to another jurisdiction and having their support obligations modified or even vacated" (alteration omitted) (quotation marks omitted)); see LeTellier v. LeTellier , 40 S.W.3d 490, 493 (Tenn. 2001) ("UIFSA is intended to recognize that only one valid support order may be effective at any one time." (quotation marks omitted)); Ball, 123 A.3d at 723 ; Case v. Case , 103 P.3d 171, 174 (Utah Ct. App. 2004) ; Child Support Enf't Div. of Alaska v. Brenckle , 424 Mass. 214, 675 N.E.2d 390, 392 (1997).

[¶5] A person may seek registration of an issuing court's child support order in the appropriate court of any other state for enforcement and/or modification. 19-A M.R.S. §§ 3150 - 3153, 3251 - 3256 ; Md. Code Ann., Family Law §§ 10-340 to 10-343, 10-348 to 10-353 (LEXIS through legis. effective June 1, 2021, of the 2021 Reg. Sess. of the Gen. Assembly). Registration occurs upon the petitioning party's submission of certain documentation to the court of the registering state. 19-A M.R.S. §§ 3151, 3152(1) ; Md. Code Ann., Family Law §§ 10-341, 10-342(a); see Hawley v. Murphy , 1999 ME 127, ¶ 9, 736 A.2d 268.

[¶6] Once such an order is registered, the nonregistering party may challenge the validity or enforcement of the registered order and request a hearing, at which it is the nonregistering party's burden to prove one or more of eight possible defenses, among them, that "[t]he alleged controlling order is not the controlling order." 19-A M.R.S. §§ 3201, 3202, 3203(1)(H) ; Md. Code Ann., Family Law §§ 10-344, 10-345, 10-346(a)(8) (LEXIS through legis. effective June 1, 2021, of the 2021 Reg. Sess. of the Gen. Assembly); Hawley , 1999 ME 127, ¶ 9, 736 A.2d 268 ; Brenckle , 675 N.E.2d at 394.

[¶7] If the nonmoving party does not object to the registration of the order, or if the nonmoving party does not successfully prove at least one of the defenses, the registration of the order is confirmed and the registered order may then be enforced in the new state as if it were the issuing state. 19-A M.R.S. §§ 3153(3), 3202(2), 3203(3), 3204 ; Md. Code Ann., Family Law §§ 10-343(c), 10-345(b), 10-346(c), 10-347 (LEXIS through legis. effective June 1, 2021, of the 2021 Reg. Sess. of the Gen. Assembly); Hawley , 1999 ME 127, ¶ 9, 736 A.2d 268.

[¶8] Notwithstanding the broad powers to enforce a child support order in every state, UIFSA circumscribes the ability of other states to modify the initial order. See 19-A M.R.S. § 3152(3) ("Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a tribunal of this State shall recognize and enforce, but may not modify, a registered support order if the issuing tribunal had jurisdiction."); Md. Code Ann., Family Law § 10-342(c); Ball, 123 A.3d at 723 ; Cohen v. Cohen , 470 Mass. 708, 25 N.E.3d 840, 845 (2015). It sets out the general rule that when an issuing state enters a child support order, the issuing state retains continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify that order:

1. Tribunal has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction. A tribunal of this State that has issued a support order consistent with the laws of this State has and shall exercise continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify its child support order if the order is the controlling order and:
A. At the time of the filing of a request for modification this State is the residence of the obligor, the individual obligee or the child for whose benefit the support order is issued; or
B. Even if this State is not the residence of the obligor, the individual obligee or the child for whose benefit the support order is issued, the parties consent in a record or in open court that the tribunal of this State may continue to exercise jurisdiction to modify its order.

19-A M.R.S. § 2965(1) ; see Md. Code Ann., Family Law § 10-308(a) (LEXIS through legis. effective June 1, 2021, of the 2021 Reg. Sess. of the Gen. Assembly); UIFSA cmt. to 19-A M.R.S. § 2965, included with L.D. 986 (121st Legis. 2003) (calling this section "the most crucial provision in UIFSA"). The Act identifies only three circumstances in which the continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify the child support order passes from the issuing state to another state:

[¶9] First, pursuant to 19-A M.R.S. § 3255(1), "[i]f all of the parties who are individuals reside in [the modification state] and the child does not reside in the issuing state, a tribunal of [the modification state] has jurisdiction to enforce and to modify the issuing state's child support order in a proceeding to register that order." Accord Md. Code Ann., Family Law § 10-352(a).

[¶10] Second, if section 3255(1) does not apply, jurisdiction passes to the modification state when

(1) Neither the child, nor the obligee who is an individual, nor the obligor resides in the issuing state;
(2) A petitioner who is a nonresident of [the modification state] seeks modification; and
(3) The respondent is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal of [the modification state].

19-A M.R.S. § 3253(1)(A)(1)-(3) ; accord Md. Code Ann., Family Law § 10-350(a)(1)(i)-(iii); Bowman v. Bowman , 82 A.D.3d 144, 917 N.Y.S.2d 379, 382 (2011). Notably, a transfer of jurisdiction pursuant to either of these first two circumstances does not involve any notice to or action in the issuing court but is instead based solely on the residence of the parties and the child and on the personal jurisdiction of the modification court.

[¶11] Third, jurisdiction to modify passes when "[the modification state] is the residence of the child, or a party who is an individual is subject to the personal jurisdiction of the tribunal and all of the parties who are individuals have filed consents in a record in the issuing tribunal for a tribunal of [the modification state] to modify the support order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction." 19-A M.R.S. § 3253(1)(B) ; accord Md. Code Ann., Family Law § 10-350(a)(2); see 19-A M.R.S. § 2802(13-B) (defining "[r]ecord" as "information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form"); Ball, 123 A.3d at 723-24. This consent requirement is echoed in 19-A M.R.S. § 2965(2)(A), by which the issuing state is precluded from exercising continuing, exclusive jurisdiction if "[a]ll of the parties who are individuals file consent in a record with the tribunal of [the issuing state] that a tribunal of another state that has jurisdiction over at least one of the parties who is an individual or that is located in the state of residence of the child may modify the order and assume continuing, exclusive jurisdiction."3 Accord Md. Code Ann., Family Law § 10-308(b)(1) (LEXIS through legis. effective June 1, 2021, of the 2021 Reg. Sess. of the Gen. Assembly). These two provisions are complementary— section 2965 detailing for the issuing court how it is divested of modification jurisdiction and section 3253 detailing for the modification court how it obtains modification jurisdiction. See Md. Code Ann., Family Law §§ 10-308(b)(1), 10-350(a)(2).

[¶12] Unlike the first and second circumstances for a transfer of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, this third circumstance requires action involving the issuing court, i.e., the...

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2 cases
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    • United States
    • Maine Supreme Court
    • June 28, 2022
    ...statute's subject matter, the purposes of the statutory scheme as a whole, and the consequences of a particular interpretation. Monteith v. Monteith , 2021 ME 40, ¶ 23, 255 A.3d 1030 ; Dickau v. Vt. Mut. Ins. Co. , 2014 ME 158, ¶¶ 19-22, 107 A.3d 621. We determine de novo whether a statute ......
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