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Clark v. Clark

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

September 4, 2018

Ronald J. Clark, appellant,
v.
Nori D. Clark, now known as Nori D. Carter, appellee.

         1. Statutes: Appeal and Error. Statutory interpretation presents a question of law, on which an appellate court has an obligation to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the decision made by the court below.

         2. Child Support: States. The general purpose of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act is to unify state laws relating to the establishment, enforcement, and modification of child support orders.

         3. ___: ___. The goal of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act is to streamline and expedite interstate enforcement of support decrees and to eliminate the problems arising from multiple or conflicting support orders from various states by providing for one tribunal to have continuing and exclusive jurisdiction to establish or modify a child support order.

         4. ___: ___. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act provides a system where only one child support order may be in effect at any one time.

         5. ___: ___. Following the adoption of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, there should not exist multiple or conflicting support orders and only one tribunal shall have continuing and exclusive jurisdiction to establish or modify a child support order.

         6. ___: ___. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act's provisions may only be used to enforce an existing support order, establish a support order where no order has previously been established, or modify an existing support order.

         7. Jurisdiction: Waiver. Generally speaking, the filing of a general appearance which does not preserve an objection to personal jurisdiction constitutes a waiver of personal jurisdiction.

         [26 Neb.App. 290] 8. Statutes: Equity: Jurisdiction. When a statute provides an adequate remedy at law, equity will not entertain jurisdiction, and a party must exhaust the statutory remedy before it may resort to equity.

          Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: Lori A. Maret, Judge. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

          Mark T. Bestul, of Legal Aid of Nebraska, for appellant.

          No appearance for appellee.

          Moore, Chief Judge, and Arterburn and Welch, Judges.

          WELCH, JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         Ronald J. Clark (Clark) appeals from an order issued by the Lancaster County District Court dismissing his request to (1) vacate or modify a Nebraska child support order originally issued in August 1999 and modified starting in April 2002 or (2) make a determination regarding whether the Nebraska order or a concurrent Wisconsin child support order is the controlling order. We reverse, and remand for further proceedings.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         In September 1985, Nori D. Clark, now known as Nori D. Carter (Carter), a resident of Wisconsin, gave birth to the parties' son. At the time of the son's birth, Carter was not married; however, 4 days later, she married Clark, who admitted he was the father. Because there were outstanding birth expenses paid by the State of Wisconsin, Wisconsin commenced a paternity action against Clark to recover those expenses. On March 2, 1989, the "State of Wisconsin[, ] Circuit Court[, ] Family Division[, ] Milwaukee County," entered an order in case No. 80-641 finding that Carter gave birth to the parties' son in September 1985, that Clark was the father, that Carter and Clark were married 4 days later, and that Clark must pay the [26 Neb.App. 291] State of Wisconsin $2, 130 in birth expenses payable at the rate of $43 per month.

         Also provided in the record is a document entered by the "State of Wisconsin[, ] Circuit Court[, ] Family Court Branch[, ] Milwaukee County," in case No. 900-426. This document purports to be "In re the Marriage of: State of Wisconsin Nori Clark . . . Petitioner, and Ronald Clark . . . Respondent." The document also reads "FINDINGS AND ORDER" but then recites matters apparently occurring on different dates. The top section of the document references an "ACTION TO COMPEL SUPPORT" as of March 22, 1990, identifies that Clark appeared "in person" but not Carter, and provided that Clark was to pay "SUPPORT" of $152 per month to be payable at the rate of $35 per week commencing April 1, 1990. This top section of the document is not signed.

         The lower section of the same document, bearing the date April 3, 1990, states as follows:

ADJOURNED TO: 5-24-90 at 11:15 [and] both TO APPEAR IN PERSON[]
FINDINGS: THE FOLLOWING FINDINGS ARE MADE: Parties have been separated two years. Child was born 4 days before parent's [sic] marriage; husband acknowledges paternity[.]
Mother works for Am[erican] Airlines, earning $500/ mo[nth] gross working part time but she's been off work 3-4 months and just went back. She says she is going off [Aid to Families with Dependent Children]. She had child in a Montessori school but had to take child out because of financial problems.
Order for support is based on husband's income from one job: wife claims he's working a second job, but he denies it. Husband is extremely antagonistic and doesn't want to pay support but he's going to have to do that. . . .
ORDER: BASED ON THESE FINDINGS, THE FOLLOWING ORDERS ARE MADE: Suspend and [26 Neb.App. 292] hold open past support and birth expense payment in case P80-641.
Matter adjourned to 5-24-90 at 11:15 for review on support; both parties to produce income tax returns for 1989 and YTD ...

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