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OK Supreme Court Case Reviews: Milne v. Hudson and Johnson v. Snow

The OK Supreme Court decided two family law cases last week that are worth talking about.

In Milne v. Hudson (2022 OK 84), Milne (Native American) applied for a Protective Order against Hudson (Native American) in McIntosh County (Indian Country). Hudson objected, citing the US Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma. The trial court held that McGirt did not apply, and the OK Supreme Court affirmed holding that Oklahoma civil courts have concurrent jurisdiction to enter protective orders, even when all parties are Native American and the incident giving rise to the Protective Order happened on Indian land. Although this was a unanimous decision (as for results), this will not be the end of McGirt style cases across all fields of law in the coming years.

In Johnson v. Snow (2022 OK 86), Wife (Jacquelyn Johnson) took money from a joint checking account, deposited it into an IRA, and named her adult children (Dirk and Duff Snow) as beneficiaries, all during the pendency of the divorce and violated the automatic temporary injunction (ATI) in the divorce case which banned such a transfer of assets. Of course, wife died before the divorce was final (or we probably wouldn’t be talking about this) and the money went to the children. The district court held that the transfer was “ineffective” because it was in violation of the ATI, however the OK Supreme Court. reversed and let the adult children keep the retirement account. Essentially the Court said that wife’s death abated the divorce action, therefore the district court was deprived of jurisdiction to enter any orders with regards to the violation of the ATI. While acknowledging that other states have found an equitable power to enforce an ATI (and a declaratory judgment post-death), they side with states saying all jurisdiction is lost. Frankly, this ends in an unfair result, overrules prior Court of Civil Appeals precedent, and gives incentive for certain divorcing parties to act in bad faith.

As always, if you have a family law question, Faulk Law Firm offers FREE consultations! (580) 249-9100 or robert@faulklawfirm.com!