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Authority to Hear Support Enforcement Action in Arizona

Posted on : March 6, 2017, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Authority to Hear Support Enforcement Action in Arizona

Authority to Hear Support Enforcement Action in Arizona

A court in Arizona can only listen to a divorce if it has jurisdiction to do so. In the past, the court in the county where the couple resided had exclusive jurisdiction. No other Arizona court could rule on matters involved in the divorce, including child support enforcement. Did the enactment of the Family Responsibility Act change that?

In Pflum v. Pflum, 660 P. 2d 1231 (1982), the Arizona Court of Appeals considered the issue.

Facts and Procedure

Mrs. and Mr. Pflum divorced in 1973, in Gila County Superior Court. The decree provided that Mrs. Pflum would have custody of the youngest child. The court ordered Mr. Pflum to pay $150.00 per month as child support.

In 1979, Mrs. Pflum was living in Maricopa County with the child. She filed a petition in the Maricopa County court claiming that Mr. Pflum owed $5,250.00 in back child support. She filed the relevant documents from Gila County Superior Court with the Maricopa County court clerk and attached copies to her filing. At that time, Mr. Pflum lived in California.

Hearing Support Enforcement Action in Arizona.

Hearing Support Enforcement Action in Arizona.

Mr. Pflum filed a motion to quash the order to show cause. He claimed that any enforcement action should be filed in Gila County Superior Court.

Both motions were heard on December 3, 1979. The Maricopa court denied Mr. Pflum’s motion to quash. It awarded Mrs. Pflum $5,400.00 in back child support plus $200.00 for attorney’s fees. It also ordered Mr. Pflum to make child support payments through the clerk of the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Jurisdiction under the Family Responsibility Act

Arizona law in the past provided that a divorce court jurisdiction is exclusive. A superior court sitting in one county had continuing and exclusive authority to hear child support matters. No other court could hear the case. However, the law was changed effective August 27, 1977, when the Legislature enacted the Family Responsibility Act (A.R.S. § 12-2455).

The Family Responsibility Act states that every parent has a duty to provide support for natural and adopted minor children. The remaining sections discuss the court’s jurisdiction. Under the law, actions regarding support can be brought in the county of residence of either party or the children.

The cases Mr. Pflum refers too were all decided before the Family Responsibility Act. Under that Act, a child support order can be enforced as any other civil judgment. Each child support installment is enforceable as a ruling when it becomes due. A party entitled to the past due support can petition the court and obtain written judgment for the full amount.

The Court of Appeals held that a person could bring a support enforcement petition in any county of this state where one of the parents or the child resides. It does not matter where the decree was originally obtained.

Authority to Hear Support Enforcement Action in Arizona.

Authority to Hear Support Enforcement Action in Arizona.

Mr. Pflum also argues that even if the Maricopa court has jurisdiction, it should refuse to act. He argues that one court should not review or enforce another court’s orders. He claims that to do so encourage judge and forum shopping.

The Court noted that the Family Responsibility Act was enacted to allow courts around the state to enforce child support orders. Since Mrs. Pflum and the child lived in Maricopa County at the time the petition was filed, the venue was appropriate.

The Court rejected the arguments regarding forum shopping and judge shopping. They are without merit since the original divorce action could also be brought in any county. Under the Act, any Arizona court can hear a divorce as long as one spouse lived in Arizona for ninety days. The prior law contained a county domicile requirement in addition to the state residence requirement that the legislature removed. It obviously intended that a dissolution action could be brought in any county.

Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
A Google User
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20:31 20 Sep 17
I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
A Google User
A Google User
21:41 07 Nov 17
After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
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Dear Stacey and Kip, How can I ever thank you enough for helping me through the most difficult time in my life? I couldn't put into words my heartfelt gratefulness. You both were so compassionate and professional at every given moment throughout this process with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me to regain my freedom.
A Google User
A Google User
16:03 22 Nov 17
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A Google User
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22:14 28 Jun 17
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A Google User
A Google User
18:16 18 Sep 17
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A Google User
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19:22 23 Aug 17
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A Google User
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17:44 23 Jun 16
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Bassam Ziadeh
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21:20 02 Apr 18
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Larry Flint
Larry Flint
21:53 27 Feb 18
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Sam Franchimone
Sam Franchimone
22:09 12 Sep 13

Disposition

The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment below. It found that the motion to quash the petition for an order to show cause regarding contempt was properly denied.

If you have a question about child support in Arizona, please call to speak to one of our experienced Scottsdale and Phoenix Arizona family law attorneys at (480)305-8300.



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