Hartley v. Ungvari

In Hartley v. Ungvari, 173 W. Va. 583, 318 S.E.2d 634 (1984) the custodial parent obtained a divorce from the non-custodial parent upon constructive service of process. Because the circuit court did not have personal jurisdiction over the noncustodial parent when the divorce was obtained, the circuit court reserved jurisdiction to award child support in the event personal jurisdiction was later acquired over the non-custodial parent. Nine years later the circuit court obtained personal jurisdiction over the non-custodial parent and awarded the custodial parent reimbursement child support. The matter came before the Court on the question of laches. What is important about Hartley in relation to this case is how we dealt with the issue of jurisdiction. The Court stated: "Under the provisions of W. Va. Code, 48-2-15 1980, where a divorce is granted upon constructive service of process and the divorce order grants custody of a child but makes no further provision for the support of that child, the custodial parent may maintain an action against the noncustodial parent, upon obtaining personal jurisdiction thereof, for reimbursement of reasonable past support expenditures furnished to the child by the custodial parent since the divorce unless, because of circumstances, the custodial parent is estopped from asserting the action." (Syllabus Point 1, Hartley, supra.)