Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Case Law Development: Federal Court Jurisdiction in Family Law Cases

The United States District Court for the District Of Maryland dismissed mother's complaint for enforcement of a child support agreement because the court found the amount in controversy to be less that $75,000.  The court commented that the plaintiff would have to demonstrate that the state court had entered an order with a present value exceeding the jurisdictional amount.  The court also offers commentary in a footnote in which it bemoans the United States Supreme Court's decision in Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689 (1992), saying that while the domestic relations exception did not apply in this case, "it should."
Servetnick v. Tulsky, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19569, (Dist. Md. September 7, 2005)
Opinion available at (last visited September 13, 2005 bgf).

What other kinds of cases are the federal courts are being asked to hear these days?  Given the 2005 opinions citing Ankenbrandt, I can't imagine why the federal courts aren't wishing for more...

  • There's the disappointed lover in Norton v. Mcosker, 407 F.3d 501; 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 9042 (1st Cir. 2005)(Married man breaks off a 23-year affair leaving his paramour with a broken heart and a hope of enforcing a promise of support or of recovering liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The US Court of Appeals said all she gets is the broken heart.)
  • Then there's the lawyer-hating husband in Adams v. Domnaski, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13996 (D. Conn. July 1, 2005)(Ex-husband is unhappy with how his divorce is going and with his conviction for violating a protective order, so he sues all the judges and lawyers involved, under 42 U.S.C.S. ยง 1983. The court dismissed all the claims.  He also asked the court to take jurisdiction of his divorce.  The court declined.)
  • The Connecticut district court was primed for this case anyway, because just one month earlier they had decided Weiss v. Weiss, 375 F. Supp. 2d 10, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11702 (D. Conn. 2005)(Ex-wife sues former husband and his law partner, in contract and tort, on the basis of her former husband's alleged noncompliance with certain terms of their marital dissolution agreement. The District Court found that, under Ankenbrandt, it had no jurisdiction over the contract claim, and it abstained from exercising jurisdiction over the tort claims based on the Rooker-Feldman abstention doctrine).

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