IN RE PRINCE J. - Articles

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Posted by: Landry Butler on Dec 5, 2017

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Mindy M., Spencer, Virginia, Pro Se.

Attorneys 2:

Michael S. Jennings and William H. Vetterick, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, James and Ila C.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

The mother of twins seeks to set aside the termination of her parental rights on the ground the judgment is void for lack of personal service. In August 2013, relatives who had legal custody of the children filed a “Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption.” After two failed attempts to locate the mother for service of process, she was served by publication. In December 2013, the trial court entered an Order of Default terminating her parental rights, and the children were adopted shortly thereafter. The mother received actual notice of the termination of her parental rights and the adoption no later than April 2014, but she waited until October 2015 to file a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60 motion to set aside the 2013 judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court ruled that the 2013 judgment was void for lack of personal service but that the mother was not entitled to relief from the judgment based on “exceptional circumstances.” The mother appealed. We affirm the trial court’s determination that the mother is not entitled to relief based on exceptional circumstances, they being that she had actual notice of the judgment eighteen months prior to seeking relief, which manifested an intention to treat the judgment as valid, and that granting relief would impair the children’s and the adoptive parents’ substantial interests of reliance on the judgment.