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SLAWSKI v. COMMONWEALTH DEPT. OF SOCIAL SVCS., et al.


SLAWSKI

v.

COMMONWEALTH DEPT. OF SOCIAL
SVCS., et al.


MAY 25, 1999

Record No. 0668-98-2

WALTER X. SLAWSKI

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL
SERVICES, DIVISION OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT,

O/B/O PATRICIA SHEEHAN and PATRICIA SHEEHAN
SLAWSKI

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HENRICO COUNTY

George F. Tidey, Judge

Present: Judges Benton, Coleman and Elder

Argued at Richmond, Virginia

OPINION PER CURIAM

John F. Ames for appellant.

Geoffrey Scott Darnell, Assistant Attorney
General (Mark L. Earley, Attorney General; Ashley L. Taylor, Jr.,
Deputy Attorney General; Robert B. Cousins, Jr., Senior Assistant
Attorney General; Craig M. Burshem, Regional Special Counsel, on
brief), for appellee Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of
Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement, o/b/o
Patricia Sheehan Slawski.

Nancy L. Quinn (Barnes & Batzli, on brief),
for appellee Patricia Sheehan Slawski.


Walter X. Slawski appeals from the decision of
the circuit court registering for enforcement a foreign order, a
1980 New Jersey divorce decree, under which he was obligated to
pay child support for his son and spousal support for his former
wife, Patricia Sheehan. Virginia’s Department of Social Services,
Division of Child Support Enforcement (the Department), initially
sought to register the order on Sheehan’s behalf in the juvenile
and domestic relations district court pursuant to the Uniform
Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). See Code
Sects. 20-88.32 to 20-88.82. On appeal to this Court,
Slawski contends, inter alia, that the circuit
court, on its de novo review, erroneously
registered the order pursuant to UIFSA because various defenses
barred registration.
[1] The Department moved to dismiss this appeal on the
ground that the circuit court order appealed from was not final
because the juvenile and domestic relations district court had
neither determined the amount of the support arrearages nor ruled
on an accompanying show cause action. We hold that the circuit
court erred in failing to determine the support arrearage.
Because the circuit court failed to determine the support
arrearage, which determination is essential to appellate review,
it did not properly confirm the registration of the foreign
support order. Therefore, we remand the case to the circuit court
for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Under UIFSA, a foreign order is registered when
it and other specified documents are filed with the registering
tribunal. See Code Sects. 20-88.32 (defining
"register"), 20-88.67, 20-88.68(A). The juvenile and
domestic relations district court serves as a registering
tribunal in Virginia. See Code Sect. 20-88.33. A
registered foreign order is enforceable only after it has been
confirmed. See Code Sect. 20-88.68. An order is
confirmed after the court has issued notice to the
non-registering party of the registration and the amount of the
alleged arrearages, if any, see Code
Sect. 20-88.70(A), and has provided the non-registering
party with an opportunity for a hearing to contest the
registration and amount of arrearages. See Code
Sects. 20-88.70(B), 20-88.73.

If the non-registering party does not timely
contest the registration, both the registered order and the
certified statement of arrearages required to be filed with the
order are confirmed by operation of law. See Code Sects.
20-88.67(A)(3), 20-88.70(B), 20-88.71(B), 20-88.73. If the
non-registering party timely contests the registration, the court
must either vacate or confirm the registration or grant other
appropriate relief. See Code Sects. 20-88.71,
20-88.72. When registration is contested, UIFSA’s provisions
require concomitant consideration of the defenses that are
raised, including challenges to the validity of the order,
enforcement, and calculation of arrearages. See Code
Sects. 20-88.71, 20-88.72, 20-88.73; see also Cowan
v. Moreno
, 903 S.W.2d 119, 124 n.12 (Tex. App. 1995) (citing
UIFSA as adopted by Texas legislature). Thus, confirmation of the
registration necessarily includes a determination of the amount
of the arrearage, if any. See also UIFSA
Sect. 608 cmt. (amended 1996), 9 U.L.A. 322, 395 (Supp.
1998) (noting that confirmation "validates both the terms of
the order and the asserted arrearages").

Although the circuit court ruled on Slawski’s
claimed defenses to registration and ordered the foreign decree
"registered for enforcement," it did not calculate the
arrearage or enter an order confirming the registration, as
required under the statutory scheme. By failing to calculate the
arrearage and remanding that determination to the juvenile and
domestic relations district court, the circuit court deprived the
parties of the right on de novo appeal to have that
determination made by the circuit court. When a de novo
appeal is taken to the circuit court, the parties are entitled to
have the case tried "as if it had been originally instituted
in that court." Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Tuttle,
208 Va. 28, 33, 155 S.E.2d 358, 361 (1967). Instead, the circuit
court ordered the matter remanded to the district court for
calculation of the arrearages, which deprived Slawski of his
right to de novo review in the circuit court.
[2] See Code Sect. 16.1-113.

For these reasons, we hold that this matter is
not fully reviewable, and we remand to the circuit court for
entry of an order of confirmation, which necessarily includes a
determination of the amount of any arrearages.
[3]

Reversed and remanded.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Slawski also contests the "appeal bond" of
$300,000 ordered by the circuit court. Because the circuit court
did not calculate the arrearages, if any, due under the foreign
order, we conclude that no supersedeas bond is necessary and that
Slawski’s filing of a $500 bond "for costs alone" is
sufficient to permit our review.

[2] No issue was
raised by the Department in the circuit court or in this Court
challenging the de novo appeal from the district
court to the circuit court.

[3] We do not
consider any other issues raised by appellant in this appeal.
Therefore, such issues remain fully reviewable in any subsequent
appeal pursuant to the rules of this Court.

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