Court Explains Personal Jurisdiction in California Family Law Cases

Relationships often fall apart, and when they do, it is not uncommon for one party to move to another city or state. If disagreements between formerly romantically involved people result in legal action, it may be uncertain which forum has the right to handle such disputes. It is clear, however, that the California courts cannot preside over a family law matter if they do not have jurisdiction over the parties. This was demonstrated in a recent California case in which the court ultimately vacated a domestic violence restraining order against the defendant, citing the lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. If you are involved in a family law dispute with someone who lives in another state, it is in your best interest to retain a seasoned San Diego family law attorney to discuss your options for protecting your interests.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife married in California in 2005, had three children, and moved to Texas in 2015. The wife left Texas in 2019 to return to her parent’s home in California and took the minor children with her. She subsequently filed a petition for legal separation and requested a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO).  The husband moved to quash service of process with regard to the DVRO request, but the court denied his motion and issued an order granting the wife’s request. The husband appealed, arguing the court erred by denying his motion to quash.

Personal Jurisdiction in California Family Law Cases

The husband argued that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over him, and therefore should have granted his motion to quash and dismissed the case with prejudice. On appeal, the court agreed and directed the trial court to issue an order granting the husband’s motion to quash the DVRO.

Under California law, a court may assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant on any basis, so long as it is not inconsistent with the state or federal constitution. If a defendant that is not a resident of California is served with process outside of the state, due process requires that they have such minimum contacts with the state so that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over them does not disrupt the traditional notions of substantial justice and fair play.

The Court explained that personal jurisdiction might be specific or general. A defendant that has substantial contacts with the state that are continuous and systemic may be subject to general jurisdiction. In the subject case, the wife argued that the husband was subject to specific jurisdiction. The Court disagreed, explaining that the exercise of personal jurisdiction is only proper if the defendant availed itself of the benefits of the forum, and the controversy in question arises out of or is related to their contacts with the forum.

Here, the Court found that the husband did not have sufficient contacts with the state to justify the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over him. As such, it found that the trial court erred in failing to grant his motion to quash the request for DVRO.

Speak to an Experienced California Lawyer

Domestic violence is a serious issue, and it is critical that family law matters involving domestic violence allegations are handled by the appropriate court. If you need assistance with a domestic violence issue, the experienced San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing a just result. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at  800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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