Thursday, February 7, 2013

Kulko v. Superior Court of California case brief

Kulko v. Superior Court of California
436 U.S. 84

SYNOPSIS: Appellant father sought review of a decision from the Supreme Court of California, which affirmed the denial of his motion to quash service of the summons on the grounds that by consenting to his children living in California, appellant had caused an effect in that state warranting its exercise of personal jurisdiction over him.

FACTS:
-After separating from her husband and moving to California from New York where she had lived with her husband and two children, a wife entered into a separation agreement, executed in New York, under which the children were to remain with their father during the school year, but would spend specified vacation periods with their mother, to whom the father had agreed to pay child support for the periods when the children were in her custody.
-This agreement was later incorporated into a Haitian divorce decree.
-A year after the divorce, the couple's daughter told her father that she wanted to remain with her mother in California following her next vacation, the father bought her a one-way plane ticket, and she moved.
-Two years later, the couple's son took up residence with his mother in California after the mother, unbeknownst to the father, sent the son a plane ticket at his request.
-The mother thereupon commenced an action against the father in California, seeking to establish the Haitian divorce decree as a California judgment, to modify the judgment so as to award her full custody of the children, and to increase the father's child support obligations.

HOLDING:
The Court determined that California state courts were constitutionally unable to exercise personal jurisdiction over appellant as a nonresident, nondomiciliary parent of minor children domiciled within California, because appellant lacked sufficient minimum contacts with California.

ANALYSIS:
By merely consenting to his children's living with appellee in contradiction of the parties' separation agreement, appellant did not purposefully avail himself of the benefits and protections of California law. Particularly, because the action was domestic in nature, appellant did not derive any commercial or financial benefit from his children's presence in California. Therefore, appellant's actions were not such that it was fair, just, or reasonable to require him to conduct his defense to the child support modification in California.

CONCLUSION:
The Court reversed a decision denying appellant's motion to quash service of the summons in appellee's action in California to modify a child support order because California state courts did not have personal jurisdiction over appellant. By consenting to his children's living in California, appellant did not purposely avail himself of any benefits of California laws.

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