HENRY C. WATKINS, Plaintiff,
JENNIFER L. BENJAMIN (f/k/a Watkins), Defendant.
in the Court of Appeals 23 May 2019.
by Defendant from orders entered 28 December 2017 and 25
January 2018 by Judge Ward D. Scott in Buncombe County No. 13
CVD 3554 District Court.
Jackson Family Law, by Jill Schnabel Jackson, for
Jonathan McGirt for Defendant-Appellant.
appeals from the trial court's (1) 28 December 2017 order
establishing child support obligations and settling arrearage
issues between the parties and (2) 25 January 2018 order
denying Defendant's motions pursuant to North Carolina
Rules of Civil Procedure 59 and 60 seeking to modify the 28
December 2017 order. Defendant contends that the trial court
erred by exercising subject matter jurisdiction over the
child support dispute in the 28 December 2017 order, and that
both the 28 December 2017 and 25 January 2018 orders should
be vacated (the latter as moot) as a result. We affirm.
parties married in October 1996, separated in August 2012,
and divorced in April 2014. Two children were born of the
marriage, and the family lived together in Buncombe County.
April 2013, following the parties' separation, Defendant
and the children relocated to Virginia. On 19 August 2013,
Plaintiff filed a complaint in Buncombe County District Court
seeking equitable distribution of the marital estate and
joint custody of the children. Defendant answered on 14
February 2014, and asserted a number of counterclaims
including, inter alia, a claim for child support.
Plaintiff replied, asserted affirmative defenses, and moved
to dismiss on 3 April 2014, conceding that he "owe[d] a
duty of support to the minor children."
trial court entered a temporary consent order on 17 July 2014
awarding the parties joint custody of the children and
awarding primary placement of the children to Plaintiff in
Buncombe County. On 6 February 2015, the trial court entered
an order that, inter alia, denied both parties'
claims for temporary child support, and reserved the issues
of retroactive and prospective child support for subsequent
determination. The trial court entered an order on 25 August
2015 that, inter alia, dismissed both parties'
pending claims for retroactive child support, held that no
child support arrears existed as of 1 August 2015, and
reserved the issues of child custody and prospective child
support for subsequent determination.
October 2015, the trial court entered an order that,
inter alia, found that Defendant had relocated to
Maryland, awarded custody of the children to Plaintiff; and
ordered Defendant to pay Plaintiff child support (including
arrears) and temporary prospective child support. The trial
court entered an order on 22 March 2016 that, inter
alia, calculated the arrears owed to Plaintiff by
Defendant, set Defendant's permanent prospective child
support obligation to Plaintiff, and set forth certain
prospective expenses to be shared by the parties. Plaintiff
applied for child support services from the Buncombe County
Child Support Enforcement Agency, which moved to intervene on
27 May 2016. On 28 June 2016, the trial court entered an
order that, inter alia, allowed the intervention and
recalculated the child support arrears owed to Plaintiff by
filed a motion to modify the child custody arrangement and to
hold Plaintiff in civil contempt on 4 October 2016. The trial
court entered a contempt citation and order to show cause on
6 October 2016. On 3 January 2017, the trial court entered a
consent order that reflected the parties' agreement to,
inter alia: (1) modify the custody arrangement such
that the parties would share joint custody of the children,
and award primary placement of the children to Defendant; (2)
settle Defendant's pending claims in the action; (3)
reserve Plaintiff's rights to recover retroactive child
support from Defendant; and (4) have the trial court and the
State of North Carolina "retain jurisdiction over the
parties and the minor children in regards to child custody
and child support issues" and "future modification
of" the orders enforcing the trial court's rulings
on those issues.
in early 2017, Defendant filed a complaint seeking child
support from Plaintiff in the Circuit Court of Baltimore
County, Maryland (the "Maryland action"). Plaintiff
moved to dismiss, and the Maryland court dismissed
Defendant's Maryland action on 9 June 2017, concluding
that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Plaintiff. On 13
November 2017, Defendant filed a petition with the Maryland
court to have the dismissal of the Maryland action reviewed,
and Defendant's petition was apparently granted and
remained pending as of the time the orders at issue in this
appeal were entered.
May 2017-after she filed the Maryland action, and before the
Maryland court dismissed the same-Defendant moved the trial
court (i.e., the Buncombe County District Court) to modify
the child support obligations between the parties to reflect
the modified custody arrangement, specifically ...