A recent discussion among Michigan lawyers raised the question whether a parent who was subject to the jurisdiction of an adjoining county in an earlier filed child support case could lawfully file a divorce case in an adjoining county. Oddly enough, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided a case just days later holding that, yes, the divorce could be filed in another county. The case is Dixon v Dixon, Docket No. 308253, decided March 21, 2013 (Unpublshed)
In Dixon, an Oakland County, Michigan trial court entered a child custody and parenting time order in a child support case in 2008. Subsequently, the parties married in 2009. Fast forward a few years. Husband filed for divorce in Wayne County, Michigan. Wife argued that the Wayne County trial court did not have jurisdiction to enter its custody order in this case because a custody order existed in Oakland County entered in the 2008 child support case. The court of appeals disagreed, stating
Subject matter jurisdiction is the power of the court to decide the type of case—not the particular case before it. Bowie v Arder, 441 Mich 23, 39; 490 NW2d 568 (1992). The trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction does not depend on the particular facts of the case. People v Lown, 488 Mich 242, 268; 794 NW2d 9 (2011); Ryan v Ryan, 260 Mich App 315, 331; 677 NW2d 899 (2004). Subject matter jurisdiction to hear a divorce case is “strictly statutory.” Id. In order for the trial court to have subject matter jurisdiction to issue a divorce judgment, the parties must (1) be seeking to dissolve a marriage that has broken down, MCL 552.6; Ryan, 260 Mich App at 331-332, and (2) meet statutory residency requirements. MCL 552.9; Stamadianos v Stamadianos, 425 Mich 1, 5-6; 385 NW2d 604 (1986). If the parties dispute a minor child’s custody, the court must declare the parents’ duties of support, care, and custody in the divorce judgment. MCL 722.24(1); MCL 552.16; Harvey v Harvey, 470 Mich 186, 192; 680 NW2d 835 (2004).
Here, the record indicates that the parties were married, sought a divorce judgment on the basis of a breakdown of their marital relationship, met the residency requirements to file for divorce in this state, and disputed a minor child’s custody. We conclude that the Wayne circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case.