Tuesday, December 22, 2015
C.A. Rules in Challenge to Foreign Support Order:
No Right to Genetic Test to Contest Court’s Jurisdiction
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A putative father challenging enforcement of a foreign child support order cannot obtain a genetic testing order in connection with his claim that the court that entered the order lacked jurisdiction over his person, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. Five granted a writ of mandate sought by Barry Youngblood, quashing Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Marshall Rieger’s order that Youngblood, Fernanda Angela Bischof, and Bischof’s son Jayden, now 8 years old, undergo testing to determine whether Youngblood is the child’s father.
The opinion, by assigned Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Kirschner, was filed Nov. 24 and certified yesterday for publication.
The mother and child live in Switzerland, and a court there issued a paternity judgment in 2010 and ordered Youngblood to pay child support retroactive to the date of birth. Two years ago, the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department began proceedings to enforce the judgment here under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, or UIFSA.
Swiss Jurisdiction Questioned
Youngblood contested the proceedings on grounds that the Swiss court lacked personal jurisdiction and that paternity was not proven in that tribunal. The Swiss authorities responded that the mother testified under penalty of perjury, at the court in Zurich, and paternity was thereby established.
The county also offered photographs of Youngblood with the mother and child, and of Youngblood holding and playing with Jayden. They also produced emails exchanged between Youngblood and Bischof, wherein the mother told him she was pregnant and he responded that he was “not ready to father a child right now” but would “do what’s right and I will support you.”
Also produced were later emails in which Youngblood said “i hope that i can b a good father but who knows,” “i will try to do the best i can for both of you,” and “sorry for being so distance with you but you are having my son and i am really really nervous.”
Youngblood conceded that he had a one-week relationship with Bischof in Las Vegas about nine months before Jayden was born. But when his counsel again declared at the Superior Court hearing that he was not admitting paternity, the commissioner stayed collection of child support and continued the hearing for 90 days to consider the county’s argument that an order for genetic testing could only be made by the Swiss court and to mull whether Youngblood could obtain such testing without conceding the foreign court’s jurisdiction.
When the hearing resumed, Rieger ordered genetic testing saying:
“I know it works. I want him to have testing. If he’s not the one, don’t clutter up my caseload. I don’t know that I can do that in this case yet, but I can talk with some people that do more international stuff than I do . . . .”
Writ, Not Appeal
The county initially sought review by appeal, but Youngblood argued the order was not appealable. The Court of Appeal then invited the county to seek writ review, which it did; the appellate panel then stayed the genetic testing order.
Kirschner, writing for the Court of Appeal, explained that under UIFSA, a support order entered in one jurisdiction may be registered for enforcement purposes in another, and the registration may only be vacated on limited grounds. Among them are lack of personal jurisdiction; fraud; a subsequent order modifying, vacating, or staying the order; or the existence of a defense under the law of the state in which the order was registered.
“Genetic testing or lack thereof is not one of the enumerated bases for vacating the registration of a foreign support judgment,” Kirschner wrote. “Neither is nonparentage.”
Any challenge to the Swiss court’s finding that Youngblood is Jayden’s father must be made in the Swiss court, the jurist said, rejecting the argument that genetic testing was relevant to Youngblood’s lack-of-personal-jurisdiction defense.
While such testing might be relevant to jurisdiction in some cases, Kirschner reasoned, it isn’t in this one, because the parties agree that Jayden was not conceived in Switzerland, and the county’s only asserted bases for Swiss jurisdiction are that Youngblood was served with notice and had an opportunity to be heard in the Swiss court, and that he had a relationship with a woman he knew to be planning to return to Switzerland and traveled there to meet the child.
The jurist also rejected the claim that Youngblood was being denied due process. The court wasn’t depriving him of his right to discovery, Kirschner said, but merely holding that genetic testing was irrelevant in a UIFSA enforcement proceeding.
The case is County of Los Angeles Child Support Services Department v. Superior Court (Youngblood), B266826.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company