Indiana Trial Court Improperly Modified Custody

Case: In Re Paternity of D.T. (Minor Child) Diamond T. Parks (Mother) v. Deante Rashon Tate (Father) 
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Because it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, Indiana trial court improperly modified custody in favor of Father where the trial court had acquired the case pursuant to a Uniform Interstate Family Support Act matter that originated in Mississippi.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother is a resident of Mississippi. In 2011, she filed, in Mississippi state court, a paternity action against Father, in order to enforce child support and obtain Medicaid benefits. Father lived in Anderson, Indiana, so the Mississippi Department of Human Resources sought enforcement assistance from the Madison Circuit Court in Indiana. That court held a hearing, at which Father admitted paternity.

Subsequently, Father filed in the same trial court a petition to modify custody. Due to defective service, Mother was unaware of Father’s petition and did not appear at the subsequent hearing. After the hearing, the trial court awarded custody to Father, from which Mother appealed.

Mother argued on appeal that the custody modification order was improper because the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to issue such an order, and due to lack of personal jurisdiction and defective service of process.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Mother that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Under Indiana’s UIFSA statute, when an Indiana trial court is involved in a foreign UIFSA proceeding, “[n]othing in this chapter shall be construed to confer jurisdiction on the court to determine issues of custody, parenting time, or the surname of the child.” There is a separate provision in the statute that permits the parents to consent to such subject matter jurisdiction, but the Court of Appeals concluded that Mother never gave any such consent.

The trial court’s custody order in favor of Father was reversed as void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re Paternity of D.T. (Minor Child) Diamond T. Parks (Mother) v. Deante Rashon Tate (Father)

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The Indiana Family Law Update is a free service provided by the Matrimonial Law Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP. While significant efforts are made to ensure an accurate summary and reproduction of each opinion, readers are advised to verify all content and analysis with a traditional case law reporter before relying on the content and analysis offered here.
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