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New York courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to modify an out-of-state child support judgment that was not registered in New York, an Albany, N.Y., appellate panel has found. The Appellate Division, 3rd Department, last week indirectly addressed forum shopping — a matter of considerable concern in matrimonial cases involving two federal laws on child support and related issues when the parties live in different states. Some experts have complained that in their quest for the most favorable forum, litigants have abused one or both of two federal laws: the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act and the Child Support Orders Act. The 3rd Department did not indicate that had occurred in the case decided last week. Its ruling nonetheless addresses that concern. Matter of Auclair v. Bolderson, 03349, involves a couple who divorced in Florida in 1987. A court granted the woman, Anne Y. Auclair, physical custody of the two children and ordered the man, George A. Bolderson, to pay support of $200 per month for each child until they are 18. Auclair moved to New York while the divorce was pending. Bolderson moved to Missouri shortly thereafter. The matter became complicated in the mid 1990s, when Bolderson waived his personal jurisdiction defense and asked the New York court to hold his former wife in contempt for violating a visitation order issued by a New York court. She moved for a modification of support and succeeded. A few years later, Auclair sought further relief in the New York court. She wanted an extension of the order of support to comport with New York law. In Florida, children are considered emancipated at 18; in New York, the age is 21. Auclair was seeking three extra years of support and prevailed in the lower courts. Last week, the 3rd Department reversed. In an opinion by Justice Thomas E. Mercure, the court said that New York does not have subject matter jurisdiction because the Florida order was never registered here. The court held that Auclair cannot enforce either the modification of support or the order extending the duration of support to the child’s 21st birthday. The opinion firmly establishes two principles in these type of disputes: � Under both federal law and interstate compact, there is no subject matter jurisdiction in an interstate child support dispute unless the foreign order is filed. � Personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state resident will be recognized only when there is strict compliance with all procedural safeguards. In sum, the 3rd Department held that in this case, the only state with jurisdiction over Bolderson is Missouri, where he lives. Mercure, however, observed in a footnote that “if both parties resided in New York, there would be jurisdiction to enforce and to modify an order issued in another state.” Also on the panel were Presiding Justice Anthony V. Cardona and Justices Karen K. Peters, Carl J. Mugglin and Anthony T. Kane. Bruce J. Wagner of McNamee, Lochner, Titus & Williams in Albany appeared for Bolderson. “The bottom line on these types of interstate disputes is that, generally speaking, if you want to modify another state’s order, you have to go to the state where the child support payor is living,” Wagner said. “That state is going to have personal jurisdiction over the payor.” Auclair, who appeared pro se, was not available for comment.

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