Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Lopinot denies dismissal, transfer in suit alleging man used daughter’s college funds to pay debts

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Dec 20, 2017

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot denied a father’s motions to dismiss and transfer his daughter’s suit alleging he paid off debts with funds intended for her college education.

In Lopinot’s Nov. 21 order, he denied defendant Jeffrey Mueth’s motion to transfer venue, concluding that “the original divorce action was filed in St. Clair County putting in question the issue of the accounts under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act.”

“Defendant Mueth argues that since the dissolution case has been in Clinton County, this case should be transferred to Clinton County,” Lopinot wrote. “However, transfer is appropriate ‘only in exceptional circumstances when the interest of justice require a trial in a more convenient forum.’”

“Given the totality of facts and circumstances presented by counsel through their pleadings and argument, the Court finds that the relevant factors do not strongly favor transfer,” he added. “Accordingly, Defendant’s motion to transfer on the basis of forum non conveniences is also denied.”

Lopinot also denied Jeffrey Mueth’s motion to dismiss. He held that the plaintiff is the third party beneficiary of the funds in the account at issue and has standing to file this lawsuit on her own behalf.

He also held that St. Clair County has subject matter jurisdiction over the action because it is separate from the dissolution action in Clinton County between her parents.

Jeffrey Muth’s daughter, Clarissa Mueth, filed the complaint on Oct. 4, 2016, alleging she has been deprived of funds she needed to pay for her college expenses and has been required to obtain loans and pay interest.

Clarissa Mueth alleges her father converted money he was required to keep as a custodian of the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act account and used it to purchase a car and pay his personal debts.

Jeffrey Mueth filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on Feb. 15 through attorney Daniel Grueninger of Belleville.

The defendant argued that a judgment of dissolution of marriage with Iris Mueth, the plaintiff’s mother, was entered on Dec. 19, 2003. Clarissa Mueth was a minor at the time and resided in Missouri with her mother. She graduated high school in May 2015 and turned 18 in June 2015.

“That pursuant to a judgment of dissolution, an order for the transfer of property to a minor child after the age of majority, is invalid, as is the ordering of a gift to a child that has reached the age of majority,” the motion states.

Jeffrey Mueth also argued that Clarissa Mueth lacks standing to seek any damages under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act as any sums are the marital property of her parents.

In his motion to transfer, the defendant argued that Clinton County is proper.

He argues that he has lived in Clinton County since 2006 and all proceedings in the underlying divorce action were transferred to Clinton County per Iris Mueth’s motion to transfer in 2009.

“That transfer of this matter to Clinton County would serve the economies of justice, in that: all evidence regarding the dissolution of marriage between Defendant and Plaintiff’s mother, which forms the basis of Plaintiff’s Complaint, is located in Clinton County,” the motion states.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 16-L-530

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St. Clair County Circuit Court