Otwell v. Otwell

56 So. 3d 1232



When one state issues a custody determination, another state does not have jurisdiction to modify or rescind the determination unless the issuing state has determined that it no longer has jurisdiction, or the second state would be a more convenient forum for the parties.


The parties were married, and lived in GA. A GA court issued a custody determination regarding the parties' children. The mother moved to LA, and filed a motion to modify child visitation and child support in the Seventh Judicial District Court, Parish of Catahoula, Louisiana. The father filed an exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, which the trial court found untimely, and therefore, waived. The trial court substantially modified the existing Georgia settlement agreement as it pertained to visitation and child support. The father appealed.


Did the state of Louisiana have subject matter jurisdiction over the parties' child support and visitation agreement?




On appeal, the mother argued that LA was the children's home state since they had been there for over a year, meaning that the trial court had jurisdiction as the children's home state. The court disagreed. Under Louisiana law, the trial court did not have jurisdiction unless Georgia found it no longer had jurisdiction or that Louisiana was a more convenient forum pursuant to Georgia law. There was no indication that a Georgia court had made such a finding in the record. Under the express terms of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to modify the child support award as Georgia continued to have exclusive jurisdiction. The trial court's judgment modifying visitation and child support was void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court reinstated the Georgia settlement agreement.

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