State of Arkansas, Office of Child Support Enforcement v. Robert Bradley

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ca05-347

ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS
NOT DESIGNATED FOR PUBLICATION

DIVISION I

STATE OF ARKANSAS, OFFICE OF CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT

APPELLANT

V.

ROBERT BRADLEY

APPELLEE

CA 05-347

October 12, 2005,

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HEMPSTEAD COUNTY

[NO. E-99-243-2]

HONORABLE DUNCAN CULPEPPER,

JUDGE

AFFIRMED

Terry Crabtree, Judge

The Office of Child Support Enforcement brings this appeal from an order granting it judgment in the amount of $6,013.16 for an arrearage in child support owed by appellee Robert Bradley. Appellant argues on appeal that the trial court erred by restricting the means by which it could collect on the judgment. We affirm.

In November 1999, a judgment by default was entered against appellee declaring that he was the father of fifteen-month-old K.B. Appellee was ordered to pay $43 a week in child support. In August 2003, appellant filed a motion for contempt alleging that appellee was behind in his child support payments. Appellee answered the motion and requested DNA testing.

At the contempt hearing, the results of the DNA testing were presented showing that there was a zero-percent probability that appellee was the father of K.B. There was also evidence that appellee owed a child-support arrearage of $6,013.16, after giving appellee credit for support he had provided the child and custodial parent. In its findings from the bench, the trial court ruled that appellant could not collect on the judgment by wage withholding or by intercepting appellee's federal or state income-tax refunds. The court's findings were incorporated into an order entered on December 3, 2004.

Citing Hill v. Hill, 84 Ark. App. 132, 134 S.W.3d 6 (2003), appellant argues that the trial court erred by restricting the methods by which it could collect the judgment. Appellant, however, raised no objection at the hearing questioning the trial court's authority to restrict its means of collection. It is well settled that this court will not consider arguments raised for the first time on appeal. Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Archer, 356 Ark. 136, 147 S.W.3d 681 (2004).

Appellant couches its arguments with regard to the state and federal tax intercepts in terms of involving subject-matter jurisdiction. The lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is a defense that may be raised at any time by either a party or the court, and it is a defect that is never waived by a failure to raise it at a particular point in a proceeding. Young v. Smith, 331 Ark. 525, 964 S.W.2d 784 (1998). However, we do not agree that these are issues touching on subject-matter jurisdiction.

Subject-matter jurisdiction is defined as the power to hear and determine the subject matter in controversy between the parties to the suit; to adjudicate or exercise any judicial power over them. Id. As we said in Banning v. State, 22 Ark. App. 144, 149, 737 S.W.2d 167, 170 (1987):

Jurisdiction of the subject matter is power lawfully conferred on a court to adjudge matters concerning the general question in controversy. It is power to act on the general cause of action alleged and to determine whether the particular facts call for the exercise of that power. Subject matter jurisdiction does not depend on the correct exercise of that power in any particular case. If the court errs in its decision or proceeds irregularly within its assigned jurisdiction, the remedy is by appeal or direct action in the erring court. If it was within the court's jurisdiction to act on the subject matter, that action is binding until reversed or set aside.

The trial court in this case unquestionably had the power to adjudicate this controversy over an arrearage in child support. That it may have proceeded irregularly in the exercise of its jurisdiction, as appellant contends, does not implicate subject-matter jurisdiction. We are thus precluded from addressing appellant's arguments.

Affirmed.

Hart and Glover, JJ., agree.