Ms. Gyger filed another appeal surrounding her attempts to register a Swiss child support order in North Carolina. Ms. Gyger, a resident and citizen of Switzerland, had met Mr. Clement, a citizen of the USA and resident of North Carolina, in North Carolina where they resided together for about 8 months in 1999. After their unmarried cohabitation, Ms. Gyger returned to Switzerland in Fall 1999, not realizing she was pregnant. She gave birth to the parties’ children in Switzerland. Mr. Clement visited her and the children for 1-2 weeks each year from 2001-2005. He stayed with them while visiting. The court found that Mr. Clement voluntarily sent money to Ms. Gyger for child support each month with the amounts ranging between $500 and $1,000. Of note in this case, Mr. Clement never resided in Switzerland, had never been employed there, never owned property there, never had a drivers license there, and never rented a car or received mail in Switzerland. In October 2007, Ms. Gyger filed an action in Geneva to establish paternity and for support. Mr. Clement was never personally served in Switzerland, although on March 7, 2008, he signed a Certified Mail return receipt from the Swiss Court, in North Carolina. He never appeared before the court in Geneva, and never made a general appearance. On December 14, 2009, the Swiss court entered judgment against him for child support. In May 2014, the Swiss government applied to register and enforce the Swiss child support order with the North Carolina Office of Child Support Enforcement. The Court of Appeals, in its opinion, didn’t specifically state this, but danced around this – Switzerland is a Foreign Reciprocating Country with the United States when it comes to Child Support (Switzerland is not a Contracting State under the Hague Maintenance Convention). Therefore, for any issues related to registration and enforcement of a Swiss child support order in the U.S., you need to look at the appropriate part of that state’s enactment of UIFSA for FRCs.
The applicable part of UIFSA requires Switzerland to have personal jurisdiction pursuant to the UIFSA long-arm statute. Unfortunately, in this situation, it does not. Therefore, the order cannot be registered or enforced in North Carolina. The mother’s remedy was to seek a child support order where there is personal jurisdiction over the father – in North Carolina. In citing a past court opinion, the Court of Appeals said, “Under the law of [insert the country], like the law of virtually all other foreign nations, the child-based jurisdiction stemming from the residence of the obligee or child is sufficient to sustain a child-support order against the noncustodial parent. But, meshing the world-wide system of child-based jurisdiction with the U.S. requirement of in personam jurisdiction presented an easily resolved challenge to the drafters of the new Hague Maintenance Convention.” In other words, the Hague Maintenance Convention is a useful tool when we have these disparate systems. Unlike other countries, where jurisdiction can lie where the child or custodial parent resides, in the U.S., we focus on personal jurisdiction over the paying parent.
Because personal jurisdiction over Mr. Clement is required, and that does not exist based on the facts here, the trial court’s refusal to register the Swiss child support order is affirmed.