Jurisdictional Issues and How They Impact Real World Clients

by | Jul 26, 2015

Lawsuits are very complex proceedings that can often turn on procedural issues that most non-lawyers would miss. Experienced attorneys, such as Durham-based Mark Hayes, pride themselves on turning over every stone, taking note of each detail, and understanding the real world impact of anything that comes across their desks. For example, Mark Hayes recently handled a child custody dispute, which turned on a question of jurisdiction. In the case, a North Carolina court modified a preexisting out-of-state custody order, thus altering the rights of the parents to their child. Specifically, the court changed the custody order from joint legal and physical custody to joint legal custody and primary physical custody with one parent. However, Mark Hayes argued on appeal of the modification to the custody order that the North Carolina court did not have jurisdiction to make this significant change to the parents’ custody rights.

Jurisdiction, perhaps a foreign concept to some, simply means that a court has the authority to decide on certain legal matters involving certain individuals. A court’s jurisdiction essentially sets the boundaries to its authority. Because the government must operate within the limitations created by laws passed by elected officials, a court is not permitted to operate outside of those set boundaries. In the context of custody orders, North Carolina’s state legislature has passed very specific and detailed rules determining when a court has the authority to look at and alter a preexisting out-of-state custody order. Here, appellate attorney Mark Hayes successfully argued to the North Carolina Court of Appeals that the trial court did not follow those rules, and thus did not have the authority to modify the preexisting custody order.

Although not all custody disputes, or any manner of case for that matter, can be won by claiming that the ruling court did not have the authority to do what it did, this case provides a resonating example of the real world benefits of having an experienced attorney who understands the various rules that govern the legal system.

Every legal matter is different. The outcome of each legal case depends upon many factors, including the facts of the case, and no attorney can guarantee a positive result in any particular case. Any testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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