In re Marriage of Parker involved the determination of whether a father could file a second action to discharge back child support he owed to the county and his ex-wife. He claimed that due to the fact that the parties’ minor children lived with him full- time while they were minors, his back child support should be discharged.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND OF THE COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL CLAIM
The parties were divorced in California in 1990. After the court entered the order, both parties moved from the state of California. The mother moved with the children to Texas and the father moved to Oregon. Mother testified that she took the children with her to live in Texas and dad went to Texas to take the children from Texas for a month-long visit. At the time that he took the children, the mother did not realize that the father had moved from California to Oregon. She testified that she did not know where the father and the children lived and could not contact the father. After the children turned 18, the father filed two motions to discharge the past due child support.
DENIAL OF SECOND ACTION BASED ON COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL
The first motion was filed in 2007 at which time the family court denied the father’s request to discharge his back child support finding that the father kept the children from their mother without proper authority preventing her from seeing them. In December 2014, the father filed again, claiming that the mother committed perjury when she testified that she did now know where he and the children lived. The family law judge denied the second motion based upon the doctrine of collateral estoppel. The father appealed the second order.
APPEAL OF THE DENIAL OF COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL
The court of appeal upheld the family court order, because the first order precluded litigation in the second action based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Collateral estoppel prevents parties from filing successive motions after a court has already decided an issue. There are five elements of collateral estoppel, and all elements were met in the second action precluding the father from a second hearing: the issues were the same in both actions, the parties litigated the issue in the first action, the issue of whether or not the mom knew the whereabouts of the children was necessary for the determination in both hearings, the decision in the prior hearing was a final determination and no one appealed it, and finally, it was the same parties litigating both actions. Due to the fact that all elements were met, the father could not re-litigate his request to discharge his back child support.
DO YOU NEED HELP WITH ISSUES RELATED TO FAMILY LAW AND COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL?
If you need legal advice and are looking for a family law lawyer in Orange County to address a dissolution issue such as collateral estoppel or any other divorce matter such as legal separation, annulment, custody, child support, spousal support and/or property division, please consider Treviño Law in your divorce attorney search. We are located in Laguna Hills right off Lake Forest exit to both the 405 and 5 freeway.
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