FROM THE MARION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 45DR-14-125-4]
HONORABLE GORDON WEBB, JUDGE.
Miller and Kimberly Eden, for appellant.
J. Pasthing, P. A., by: Samuel J. Pasthing, for appellee.
PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge.
Virginia Medeiros appeals a Marion County Circuit Court order
barring enforcement of her claim of spousal support from her
ex-husband, appellee Julio Medeiros.On appeal, Virginia contends
that the trial court erred in (1) allowing Julio to assert
certain equitable defenses, including the equitable defense
of laches; (2) applying Arkansas law instead of California
law; and (3) determining that her claim was barred by laches.
recitation of the facts is necessary. Virginia and Julio were
divorced in the State of California in 1991. Under the terms
of the California divorce decree, Julio had an obligation to
pay Virginia spousal support. On July 15, 2014, Virginia
filed a petition to register her California divorce decree in
Arkansas pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support
(UIFSA). She also filed a motion for contempt, alleging
Julio's failure to make his spousal-support payments
under the decree and seeking enforcement of the California
judgment in the Arkansas courts. She attached the 1991
divorce decree and an affidavit of arrearage to the petition.
At her request, the court scheduled a hearing on her motion
for contempt for November 19, 2014.
was served on August 1, 2014, and on August 26, 2014, he
filed an answer to the petition. Julio asserted a general
denial to the allegations but specifically raised the
affirmative defense of laches, the statute of limitations,
and other defenses "found in the Arkansas Rules of Civil
Procedure" and the constitutions of the United States
and Arkansas. Virginia responded that Julio had failed to
follow the statutory procedure to properly object to the
registration of the California decree, that his defenses
should not be permitted, and that the registration should be
confirmed. The trial court allowed Julio to challenge the
registration and then applied the defense of laches to bar
Virginia's enforcement of the decree. Virginia appeals.
first argues that the trial court erred in allowing Julio to
assert a challenge to the registration of their California
divorce decree. She argues that Julio's response was
untimely and that he failed to request a hearing as required
order to address Virginia's first argument, a review of
the statutory requirements of UIFSA is in order. UIFSA is a
mechanism by which support orders issued in one state may be
registered in another for purposes of enforcement. Here,
California issued a support order, and it can be registered
in Arkansas for enforcement purposes. Ark. Code Ann. §
9-17-601. UIFSA sets out the procedure for proper
registration. On receipt of a proper request for
registration, the registering tribunal shall cause the order
to be filed as "an order of a tribunal of another state
or a foreign support order." Ark. Code Ann. §
9-17-602(b). The support order issued in another state is
considered "registered" when the order is filed.
Ark. Code Ann. § 9-17-603(a). Here, Virginia properly
filed the California decree with the State of Arkansas, and
it was registered at the time of filing.
also sets forth the proper procedures for enforcement of a
registered support order from another state. Once a support
order has been registered pursuant to UIFSA, the
nonregistering party shall contest the validity or
enforcement by requesting a hearing within twenty days after
notice of registration. Ark. Code Ann. §§ 9-17-605
and -606. The only method for contesting the validity of a
foreign support order is to request a hearing within twenty
days after notice of registration. State of Washington v.
Thompson, 339 Ark. 417, 6 S.W.3d 82 (1999). If the
nonregistering party fails to timely contest the validity or
enforcement of the support order, the order is confirmed by
operation of law. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-17-605(b).
argues that it is undisputed that Julio did not request a
hearing within twenty days of service. Based on his failure
to timely contest, she argues that the order was confirmed by
operation of law. Once confirmed, Virginia argues, he is
precluded from any further contest of the order with respect
to any matter that could have been asserted at the time of
the registration. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-17-608.
Virginia's argument and statement of the law is
incomplete because it ignores the UIFSA notice requirement.
support order issued in another state is registered, the
registering tribunal of this state shall notify the
nonregistering party of the registration. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 9-17-605(a). The notice requirement under UIFSA is
very specific. The notice must be accompanied by a copy of
the registered order and the documents and relevant
information accompanying the order. Id. The notice
must inform the nonregistering party (1) that a registered
support order is enforceable as of the date of registration
in the same manner as an order issued by a tribunal of this
state; (2) that a hearing to contest the validity or
enforcement of the registered order must be requested within
twenty days after notice; (3) that failure to contest the
validity or enforcement of the registered order in a timely
manner will result in confirmation of the order and
enforcement of the order and the alleged arrearages; and (4)
of the amount of any alleged arrearages. Ark. Code Ann.
there is no record that Julio was ever served with notice
setting forth the specific UIFSA requirements pursuant to
Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-17-605(b). The return of
service indicates that Julio was served with the following
documents: (1) a summons reciting the standard thirty-day
time limit for answering imposed by the Arkansas Rules of
Civil Procedure; (2) a notice; (3) a notice of hearing; (4)
the petition to register a foreign divorce decree; (5) the
motion for contempt; (6) an exhibit; and (7) plaintiffs first
set of interrogatories and request for production of
documents propounded to defendant. In Mederios I,
supra, we noted that, while the return of service
represented that Julio was served with a "Notice, "
no copy of this document was contained within our record. We
stressed that this missing "Notice" was
"essential to our determination of the issues." We
ordered the parties to settle and supplement the record with
the documents served on Julio when the case was first
initiated. Despite our remand for supplementation, the record
is still void of this missing "Notice."
that Julio was never served with the necessary notice
required by Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-17-605(b). There
is no evidence in the record that Julio received any notice
specifying the correct time limitation or procedure by which
to contest the registration under UIFSA, and Julio
specifically denied receiving any such notice. Arkansas Code
Annotated § 9-17-605 mandates that the nonregistering
party shall be notified. Under our principles of statutory
construction, "shall" is mandatory. Th ...