In Re the Marriage of: Teasha J. Harris, Appellant-Respondent,
Anthony J. Harris, Appellee-Petitioner
Appeal from the Marion Superior Court. The Honorable Patrick L. McCarty, Judge. Cause No. 49D03-0809-DR-41630.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Nathaniel Lee, Lee & Fairman, LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Mark Small, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Baker, Judge. Najam, J., and Friedlander, J., concur.
[¶1] Teasha Harris (Wife) appeals the trial court's denial of her motion to correct error. She argues that the trial court erred in determining that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Anthony Harris (Husband) as to the division of certain marital assets. She also argues that the trial court erred in determining that Husband's military pension was not a marital asset. Finding that Husband had consented to the trial court's jurisdiction over him in regard to all matters necessary to the disposition of this cause, we reverse the portions of the trial court's judgment that were affected bye this determination. However, we affirm the trial court's judgment that Husband's military pension was not a marital asset. Accordingly, we remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
[¶2] Husband and Wife were married in 1995 in Watertown, New York. They have one daughter (Daughter), born in 1996. In 2005, Wife separated from Husband and moved to Indiana. In 2008, Wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Marion County, seeking primary custody of Daughter and a distribution of the marital property. At that time, Husband was a resident of North Carolina, and, as a member of our armed forces, was stationed in Germany.
[¶3] Pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA), the trial court ordered a phone call to discuss jurisdictional issues with the appropriate trial court in North Carolina. The North Carolina court agreed that all matters regarding Daughter, including the petition for dissolution of marriage, would be heard by the trial court in Marion County.
[¶4] The trial court then held a hearing on Wife's petition on February 2, 2009. Wife was present at this hearing but Husband did not appear. Following the hearing, the trial court issued a decree for dissolution of the marriage, awarded custody of Daughter to Wife, ordered Husband to pay $239 per week in child support and $500 per month in spousal allowance, ordered Husband to pay the balance owed on the parties' vehicle and transfer title of the vehicle to Wife, and awarded thirty-two percent of Husband's military pension to Wife.
[¶5] On March 2, 2009, Husband filed a motion to correct error, arguing that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. The trial court denied this motion and Husband appealed. On appeal, this Court held that the trial court did not err in dissolving the marriage, as changing the parties' status from married to unmarried takes the form of an in rem proceeding, in which " the trial court may, upon ex parte request of a resident party, dissolve a marriage without obtaining personal jurisdiction over the other party." Harris v. Harris, 922 N.E.2d 626, 634 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010).
[¶6] However, observing that " [i]n order for a trial court to have jurisdiction over marital property, the court must have in personam jurisdiction over both parties," this Court held that the trial court's judgments as to child support, spousal allowance, military retirement pay, and all other incidences of marriage were void for lack of personal jurisdiction. Id. at 635-38. This Court also reversed the trial court's
judgment as to child custody for failure to comply with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the UCCJA. Id. at 638-40.
[¶7] Following this Court's decision, on July 19, 2011, Husband and Wife filed an agreed entry for modified decree of dissolution in the Marion County trial court. Husband and Wife agreed that Wife would have primary custody of Daughter, Husband would pay Wife $196 in weekly child support, Husband and Wife would share the expense of Daughter's post-secondary education, and Husband would maintain Daughter's health insurance. The trial court approved this agreement the same day.
[¶8] Also on July 19, 2011, Wife filed a verified petition for equitable division of marital assets and spousal maintenance. In her petition, Wife noted that " she is physically incapacitated to the extent that her ability to support herself is materially affected." Appellant's App. p. 88. In her petition, Wife acknowledged this Court's ruling setting aside the trial court's previous order as to distribution of marital property because of a lack of personal jurisdiction over Husband. However, Wife noted that " [t]he parties executed an Agreed Entry in which [Husband] submitted to the jurisdiction of Indiana with regards to the issues of support and ...