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In Re Marriage of Highsmith

OPINION FILED JANUARY 23, 1986.

IN RE MARRIAGE OF DEVELIA HIGHSMITH, APPELLANT, AND LILA R. HIGHSMITH, APPELLEE.


Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Henry County, the Hon. Conway L. Spanton, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Respondent, Develia Highsmith, appealed from the order of the circuit court of Henry County finding him in contempt for nonpayment of child support, and the judgment entered in favor of petitioner, Lila R. Highsmith, in the sum found to be due and owing for child-support payments and attorney fees. The appellate court affirmed (130 Ill. App.3d 725), and we allowed respondent's petition for leave to appeal (94 Ill.2d R. 315).

In 1970, while petitioner and respondent were residents of California, their marriage was dissolved and the respondent was awarded custody of their minor child. In 1981 respondent sent the child to live with petitioner's parents in Illinois. He sent to the grandparents a document which read:

"TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: I DEVELIA A. HIGHSMITH DO HEREBY GRANT CUSTODY OF MY DAUGHTER DAWN MARIE HIGHSMITH TO LYLE AND MYRTIS COLLINSON, DAWN'S PARENTAL GRANDPARENTS. LYLE AND MYRTIS COLLINSON HAVE FULL CONTROL OF DAWN'S HEALTH, WELFARE AND EDUCATION FROM THIS DAY FORTH.

[Signature] DEVELIA A. HIGHSMITH"

Approximately two months later, petitioner registered the California judgment of dissolution in Henry County, and in orders entered upon allowance of her petitions, the judgment was modified awarding petitioner custody of the minor child and ordering respondent to pay $45 per week for her support.

The record shows that petitioner and the minor child were residents of Illinois and that respondent, who was in the United States Navy, was served with notices and copies of the petitions and orders in Virginia. The order directing respondent to pay support money provided that arrangements were to be made with the Navy for allotment checks in payment of the support money to be sent to the Henry County circuit clerk.

In November 1983, petitioner filed a petition for rule to show cause alleging the modification of the judgment of dissolution and arrearage in the amount of $3,062 in the payment of support money. Respondent filed a special and limited appearance to challenge the jurisdiction of the court over his person. He stated that he was a resident of Virginia, had committed none of the acts set forth in section 2-209 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 2-209), which would voluntarily submit him to the jurisdiction of the court, and prayed that the court quash the rule to show cause and vacate any prior order or judgment entered when the court did not have personal jurisdiction over him.

Following a hearing, the circuit court found that respondent had submitted to the jurisdiction of Illinois courts by his actions, which included sending his minor child to Illinois, and designating Illinois residents as custodians for her. The court also found respondent in contempt for nonpayment of child support, found the arrearage to be in the amount of $3,690, and entered judgment in that amount plus a sum for attorney fees.

The appellate court affirmed, holding that by sending the child to Illinois, respondent had submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the courts of this State, that his activities in this jurisdiction satisfied the minimum-contacts test, and that his action in sending the child to her maternal grandparents when petitioner had not consented to such action created a situation which virtually guaranteed that custody and support disputes would arise requiring exercise of jurisdiction in Illinois.

Respondent contends here that the circuit and appellate courts erred in holding that the circuit court had personal jurisdiction over him. He argues that he had not committed any acts by which he submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the courts of Illinois and that his contacts with Illinois were insufficient to satisfy the requirements of due process. Petitioner contends that his sending the child to Illinois and providing that the petitioner's parents, residents of Illinois, should have control of the child's health, welfare and education, were sufficient contacts to support the assertion of personal jurisdiction over respondent in matters involving his child, and that the nature of respondent's activities in Illinois were such that it was fair and reasonable to require him to defend the petitions filed in this jurisdiction.

We consider first whether respondent's conduct subjected him to the jurisdiction of the courts of this State. Section 2-209 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 2-209) provides that any person who in person or through an agent does any of the acts enumerated submits to the jurisdiction of the courts of this State as to any cause of action arising from the doing of any of such acts. Enumerated as acts which invoke jurisdiction are:

"(1) The transaction of any business within this State;

(2) The commission of a tortious act within ...


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