Personal Responsibility and the Long Arm Salute

March 4, 2009 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

By Sylvia Galic
Most of us recall the days of first year law school with a combination of fondness and misery.  We entered a world comprised of theorems, logic, and proofs, and were introduced to bizarre and fascinating terms such as Learned Hand and eminent domain. 

We were also taught to read case law, which was really a different language, something foreign that, at the time, made no sense.  Most memorable, perhaps, is the case of International Shoe Co. v. Washington (326 U.S. 310).
In the community of family law, such jurisdictional barriers do not come to light often.  I recently had a case, however, that required me to revisit good ole’ International Shoe, and its sister, the Long Arm Statute (735 ILCS 5/1-205.1), the familiar and  powerful statute that either pulls you in, or insulates you from the inevitable.  This case dealt with the issue of an out of town domiciliary/spouse, and his alleged submission to the jurisdiction of Illinois, and the powers of personal jurisdiction.  While many attorneys are familiar with terms such as “minimum contacts,” “availing oneself to the benefits of a forum State,” and “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice,” we rarely hear them mentioned on the sixteenth floor of the Daley Center Court House.
However, what occurs when a nonresident spouse whose wife and minor child, who have resided in Cook County for at least two years, refuses to submit to the jurisdiction?  Well, as attorneys, we then plunge forward and try to establish these “minimum contacts,” and demonstrate to the Court that the nonresident spouse has “availed himself/herself” to the benefits of the State of Illinois. 
In my particular case, the opposing party filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to the Long Arm Statute.  Upon reading and rereading, the Long Arm Statute, I realized that since the nonresident spouse never lived in Illinois, owned no property in Illinois, never committed a business transaction in Illinois, et al, this task might not be so easy. 

However, one of the paragraphs became demonstrative, which stated that “any person,
whether or not a citizen or resident of this State, who in person…fails to support a child, spouse, or former spouse who has continued to reside in this State since the person either formerly resided with them in this State or directed them to reside in this State.”

The legislature clearly intended this provision to serve as an important public policy tool to insure that a noncustodial, nonresident provide support for his or her family, and thus be enshrouded under the umbrella of the Long Arm Statute.  We were successful in obtaining personal jurisdiction over the spouse, and obtaining a temporary child support order, after two years of little to no support by this parent and the elation of my client.  However, the nonresident spouse has since become more of a nonresident, by relocating to his Country of birth, India, which is a non Hague Convention signatory country.  Thus, the battle for support continues.

Entry filed under: Family Court, Family Law. Tags: , , , , .

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