STATE OF TENNESSEE EX REL. MICHELLE AMANDA CREIGHTON V. JAMES MICHAEL HAYNER - Articles

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Posted by: Amelia Ferrell Knisely on Mar 29, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Deana Hood, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Michael Hayner.

Attorneys 2:

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; and Rebekah A. Baker, Assistant Attorney General/Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee ex rel. Michelle Amanda Creighton.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

Father seeks to declare a child support arrearage judgment entered in January 2005 void ab initio for lack of service of process. The dispositive issue is whether the petition for civil contempt and summons issued in August 2004 were properly served on Father. It is undisputed that the 2004 petition and summons were delivered to an attorney’s office and left with the receptionist. After learning that a summons and petition had been “served on Father” at her office, the attorney promptly notified Mother’s attorney she was not authorized to accept service on Father’s behalf and that she did not represent Father in the pending matter. When the petition came on for hearing, no one appeared on behalf of Father, and the juvenile court entered an arrearage judgment for the amount owed. Several years later, Father filed a motion seeking to set aside the 2005 judgment as void for lack of service of process. The motion was supported by affidavits from the attorney and Father. The attorney testified that she was not authorized to accept service on Father’s behalf and that she did not represent Father in the pending matter. In his affidavit, Father confirmed the testimony of the attorney and he further stated that he was in the United Kingdom when service of process was attempted. The juvenile court held that Father was properly served and denied the motion. Father appealed, insisting the January 2005 arrearage judgment was void ab initio for lack of service of process. The State, acting on behalf of Mother in this appeal, admits in its brief that service of process was not properly effectuated, and that the judgment obtained on January 2005 is void. We agree. Accordingly, the judgment of the juvenile court entered on November 25, 2014, is reversed, and this matter is remanded with instructions for the juvenile court to enter an order declaring the January 2005 arrearage judgment void.