Nordike, now Holcomb v. Nordike, ___S.W.3d____ (Ky, 2007)
Husband and Wife’s divorce and custody actions were filed and orders were entered in Kansas. Following a move by Husband to another state, Wife moved to Kentucky. Once in Kentucky, Wife motioned the Kansas court to surrender jurisdiction to Kentucky. Kansas granted Wife’s motion because Kentucky was the current home state of the child, and Kansas was no longer a convenient forum. Wife then sought to register the Kansas decree in Kentucky. Eventually, the parities entered into an agreed order transferring jurisdiction to the Warren Circuit Family Court pursuant to UCCJA. The agreed order stated, “the petition for registration was accepted and all future matters pertaining to custody or visitation of this minor child shall be brought within the Warren Circuit Court.” Following entry, Husband repeatedly availed himself of the Kentucky forum. However, the court only ever addressed the issues of custody and visitation. At some point Wife sent Husband some interrogatories and requested documents seeking financial information. Husband objected arguing that the Kentucky court only had jurisdiction over custody and visitation and the information requested was not relevant to those issues. The TC agreed that the previously entered order only dealt with the issues of custody and visitation and it was unclear what the interrogatories had to do with those issues. Then wife sought to have the court amend its order to include jurisdiction over all issues of child support. She argued that child support was mistakenly omitted from the original order. Husband argued the Kentucky court did not have jurisdiction to hear the child support issue. TC agreed with Husband and held it did not have personal jurisdiction to hear the case. Wife appealed. CA held that the TC lacked both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. The Kentucky S.Ct. then heard the case on discretionary review.
The S.Ct. held that both the TC and CA were correct that the issue was that the TC lacked jurisdiction. However, the S.Ct. opined that there was no justiciable controversy, therefore the TC did not have jurisdiction. This is because there was no action pending before the TC. Wife was not seeking to actually have the child support order modified. Instead, she was requesting that the court modify its original order so that she might in the future have the issue of support addressed. To modify support, Wife needed to either have the Kansas child support decree registered and enforced in Kentucky or registered and modified in Kentucky. Either way, she needed to ask the court to actually do something rather than ask the court to say that it would in the future be willing to do something. Wife was essentially asking the court for an advisory opinion.
Digest by Linda Dixon Bullock, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates