Snider v. Snider
In Snider v. Snider, 209 W. Va. 771, 551 S.E.2d 693 (2001), the Court addressed the issue of the authority of courts in West Virginia to award alimony when only one party is physically present in the state.
The family law master ruled that West Virginia courts had personal jurisdiction over Mr. Snider due to his numerous contacts with the state. In an order dated January 28, 2000, the circuit court ordered equitable distribution of the marital assets of the parties.
The circuit court also required Mr. Snider to pay Ms. Snider $ 2,500.00 per month in spousal support, and to pay her attorney's fees.
Mr. Snider appealed the circuit court's ruling on the grounds that he did not have sufficient minimum contacts in West Virginia for the circuit court to exercise personal jurisdiction over him.
The Court rejected the argument.
In Snider, the parties were married on January 20, 1973, in Garrett County, Maryland. At the time of the divorce, the parties had two emancipated children. During the marriage, Mr. Snider was employed by five different glass companies and was required to move from West Virginia to Pennsylvania, back to West Virginia, and again to Pennsylvania. Between the period 1987 until 1993, Mr. Snider was employed by a glass company in New Jersey.
In January 1994, the parties traveled to West Virginia to visit with Ms. Snider's family. While in West Virginia, the parties agreed that they would buy a townhouse that was being offered for sale in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and that they would live in the home when Mr. Snider retired. After several weeks, the parties returned to New Jersey and placed their New Jersey home on the market.
The parties also made an offer to purchase the townhouse in West Virginia. in March 1994, Mr. Snider began working as a consultant for a glass company in Elgin, Illinois. Three months later, the parties purchased the townhouse in Bridgeport. The parties sold their house in New Jersey in January 1995, and moved to the townhouse in West Virginia in March 1995.
After moving to West Virginia, Mr. Snider returned to the contract job in Illinois. Although Mr. Snider spent most of his time in Illinois, he would periodically visit his home in West Virginia. Mr. Snider filed for divorce in Illinois on October 3, 1997, alleging that the parties had been separated on a continuous basis since March 1994. Ms. Snider countered by filing a divorce action in West Virginia on October 24, 1997.
The Illinois court granted a divorce on April 1, 1998. Mr. Snider then moved to dismiss the West Virginia divorce action on the grounds that, because of the Illinois judgment, the West Virginia courts lacked personal jurisdiction over him. On August 8, 1998, the family law master entered an order rejecting Mr. Snider's motion.
The husband argued that because "the Illinois court issued an order dissolving the parties' marriage first, the Illinois court deprived our courts of all authority to adjudge Ms. Snider's personal rights." Snider, 209 W. Va. at 777, 551 S.E.2d at 699. In our rejection of this argument we stated "the consequence of accepting Mr. Snider's position would be that our State, where Ms. Snider is domiciled and where the parties ostensibly maintained their marriage, would be forced by a foreign jurisdiction to abdicate its interest in protecting its own residents--married or otherwise." Snider, 209 W. Va. at 777, 551 S.E.2d at 699.