Anderson v. Department of Revenue (First DCA, November 9, 2016)

The Department sent notice to the appellant stating that his paternity had been established and that the Department would be establishing his child support obligation.  The notice specified that if the appellant disputed paternity he could file an action in the Circuit Court within 20 days and that doing so would automatically terminate the administrative proceeding.  Instead, the appellant sent a letter to the Department with a paternity test showing that he was not the father.  The Department thereafter sent appellant a proposed support order advising him of his right to have an administrative hearing.  The Department’s correspondence noted additionally that it did not have jurisdiction to resolve a paternity dispute and that any such dispute needed to be brought in the Circuit Court.  Nevertheless, the appellant once again replied by sending a letter to the Department disputing his paternity and requesting that the Department contact him to resolve the matter.

The appellant subsequently filed a petition to disestablish paternity in the Circuit Court, but he did so after the 20-day period during which such filing would have automatically terminated the administrative proceeding.  The Department then entered an administrative child support order and an income deduction order.

The appellant appealed on several grounds.  Most notably, he argued that the Department had erred because, by rule, when a party requests “informal discussions,” the Department must extend any deadlines until after those discussions have occurred.  The Department countered that the appellant had requested a discussion regarding paternity, over which it had no jurisdiction, and therefore this rule did not apply.  The District Court agreed that the Department was not required to continue discussing the paternity issue with the appellant; therefore, it had not violated any rules.  Accordingly, the order was affirmed.

Randall v. Griffin (Fifth DCA, November 10, 2016)

The mother filed a contempt motion against the father for failing to pay child support.  The father did not attend the hearing, and the trial court granted the motion.  The court failed, however, to include any enforcement mechanism in its order or to make factual findings supporting the decision.  The mother appealed and the Fifth DCA reversed.

First, the District Court noted that the mother had timely served a motion for rehearing asking that the Court include an enforcement mechanism, but that the motion was denied as untimely because it was filed after the 15-day deadline.  The Court explained that the rule requires timely service but does not impose a deadline for filing.  Therefore, the trial court should have heard the motion.  The Court noted that although the mother did not argue this issue in her brief, the Court could treat this issue as “fundamental error” because the trial court had effectively denied the mother due process.  Accordingly, the case was remanded with instructions for the trial court to rule on the motion for rehearing.

The District Court went on to explain that the trial court may, but is not required to, include an enforcement mechanism in its contempt order.  It added that the trial court must, however, include factual findings supporting its decision.