United States District Court, D. Delaware
Jean Goodman, Wilmington, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.
ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE:
Emery Jean Goodman proceeds pro se and has been
granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. She
commenced this action on August 30, 2017, seeking child
support payments withheld by the Delaware Division of Social
Services. (D.I. 2). The Court proceeds to review and screen
the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
alleges that child support owed her was sent to the Division
of Social Services. It claimed that Plaintiff received $35,
000. Plaintiff alleges that $9, 990 was not paid, and she
asked for an investigation. Plaintiff alleges that the
Division of Social Services withheld money owed her from 2009
to date. The complaint does not contain a prayer for relief.
I will assume Plaintiff wants the $9, 900.
federal court may properly dismiss an action sua
sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) if "the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726
F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013). See also 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions). The
Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as
true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro
se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny,
515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Plaintiff
proceeds pro se, her pleading is liberally construed
and her complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be
held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).
action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a court may dismiss a complaint as
frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless
legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or
"fantastic or delusional" factual scenario.
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; Wilson v.
Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989).
legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to
state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is
identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule
12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d
236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). However, before dismissing a
complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of
28 U.S.C. §1915, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to
amend her complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or
futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d
103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).
well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and
conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009); BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that
a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City
of Shelby, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A
complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect
statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.
See id. at 346.
reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three
steps: (1) take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead
to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that, because they
are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the
assumption of truth; and (3) when there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d
Cir. 2016). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts
in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is
entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible
will be a "context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
Court has an independent obligation to address issues of
subject matter jurisdiction. See Zambelli Fireworks Mfg.
Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 418 (3d Cir. 2010)
("Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and
when there is a question as to our authority to hear a
dispute, 'it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve such
doubts, one way or the other, before proceeding to a
disposition on the merits.'"). "As a matter of
policy and comity, [child support cases are] local problems
[which] should be decided in state courts. Domestic relations
is a field peculiarly suited to state regulation and control,
and peculiarly unsuited to control by federal courts."
Magaziner v. Montemuro, 468 F.2d 782, 787 (3d Cir.
the parties are domiciled in different states, the court
lacks diversity jurisdiction over cases involving domestic
relations. The domestic relations exception to federal
jurisdiction prohibits federal courts from hearing
"cases involving the issuance of a divorce, alimony, or
child custody decree." Ankenbrandt v. Richards,504 U.S. 689, 704 (1992). The bar on federal jurisdiction
applies to ancillary matters. Numerous federal courts have
held that the domestic relations exception applies to cases
involving the determination or modification of child support.
See, e.g., Donohue v. Pataki,28 Fed.Appx. 59 (2d
Cir. 2002); Friedlander v. Friedlander, 149 F.3d
739, 740 (7th Cir. 1998); Lannan v. Maul, 979 F.2d
627, 631 (8th Cir. 1992); Agg v. Flanagan, 855 F.2d
336, 339 (6th Cir. 1988). This is a domestic relations matter