Thursday, July 5, 2018

Case of the Day: Ferguson v. Wallace-Ferguson, 2018 ND 122 (N.D. May 10, 2018)


Ex-husband and ex-wife were both U.S. military service members and obtained divorce while they were stationed in Germany. Ex-husband was later re-assigned to North Dakota, ex-wife to Texas. The ex-wife registered the German divorce decree with the North Dakota to obtain child support. Subsequently, the ex-husband was re-assigned to South Korea, and claimed the North Dakotan court no longer had jurisdiction to modify the support order.

The Supreme Court of North Dakota construed the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, and determined the North Dakotan court maintained jurisdiction. Although the court noted that virtually all courts interpreted the UIFSA to divest jurisdiction once all parties moved out of the state, the court found an exception when one party moves out of the country.


This may seem like a run-of-the-mill family law decision, but to a civil procedure nerd about transnational litigation, it is the craziest thing. By way of a statute, the court: (1) issued a provisional order (since child support orders are not a final judgment) that (2) stays effective no matter where the defendant lives, even if the defendant lived in a different country and outside of the court's territorial jurisdiction, because; (3) the defendant was present in the jurisdiction momentarily. There is absolutely no area in the U.S. law that does something like this other than family law. Just imagine how much easier the personal jurisdiction jurisprudence would be if all cases were sorted out like this.

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