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State ex rel. Townsend v. Williamson

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

June 21, 2018

STATE EX REL. SHARON DENISE TOWNSEND
v.
ERIC WAYNE WILLIAMSON

          Session: April 18, 2018

          Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Shelby County No. P155 Nancy P. Kessler, Special Judge

         Appellant/Father appeals the trial court's order, charging Appellant with $23, 663.54 in child support arrearage. Specifically, Appellant asserts that he is entitled to certain credits against the arrearage. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile Court is Affirmed and Remanded

          Eric Wayne Williamson, pro se, Chicago, Illinois, Appellant.

          Herbert H. Slattery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and Sara Ohlman, Assistant Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee ex rel Sharon Denise Townsend.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Arnold B. Goldin, J., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

         I. Background

         This is the third appeal of this child support and custody case. State of Tennessee ex rel. Townsend v. Williamson, No. W2004-02980-COA-R3-JV, 2006 WL 1493632 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 1, 2006) ("Williamson I"); State of Tennessee ex rel. Townsend v. Williamson, No. W2006-02287-COA-R3-JV, 2007 WL 2200287 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 2, 2007) ("Williamson II"). Facts relevant to the instant appeal are set out in Williamson II, to-wit:

Appellant Eric Wayne Williamson (Mr. Williamson) and Appellee Sharon Townsend (Ms. Townsend) are the parents of M.A.W., born May 22, 1998. In May 2003, Mr. Williamson's parentage was established following his petition to establish parentage. The trial court awarded Mr. Williamson and Ms. Townsend joint custody, with Ms. Townsend named primary custodian, and set Mr. Williamson's child support obligation at $521 per month, payable by income assignment. Mr. Williamson was also ordered to provide medical insurance and expenses for M.A.W.
On June 4, 2003, Ms. Townsend filed a petition stating that M.A.W. had been residing with her since birth and seeking custody. This matter was docketed under number P658. On January 12, 2004, Mr. Williamson, now a resident of Missouri, filed an intervening petition for sole custody alleging a material change in circumstance. In his petition, Mr. Williamson asserted that Ms. Townsend had not provided proper supervision for M.A.W. On June 16, 2004, the juvenile referee established a visitation schedule and continued the matter.
The matter was heard by the trial court on June 16, 2004; neither party was represented by counsel. At the hearing Mr. Williamson argued that Ms. Townsend neglected M.A.W. . . . At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found that Mr. Williamson had not proved a change in circumstance warranting modification of custody.
Mr. Williamson filed a petition to rehear on June 17, 2004. In the meantime, on August 9, 2004, Ms. Townsend and the State Child Support Services Division filed petitions against Mr. Williamson for contempt for failure to pay medical expenses. This matter was docketed under docket number P155. On September 14, 2004, under docket number P155, Mr. Williamson filed a petition to modify child support. On September 23, Mr. Williamson filed another request for a rehearing of the custody dispute, this time under docket number P658, the docket number of the original custody modification proceeding. The trial court granted Mr. Williamson's request the same day.
On October 20, 2004, the trial court denied Mr. Williamson's petition to modify child support under docket number P155 and ordered him to be confined to the Shelby County jail "until he purges himself of contempt by paying to the Clerk of the Court the sum of $500.00, a part of the amount he is in arrears." The trial court also ordered Mr. Williamson to pay Ms. Townsend's attorney's fees in the amount of $250. However, although the order contained a stamped signature by the juvenile court judge, it included no indication that it had been filed with the clerk of the court. Mr. Williamson filed a notice of appeal of the contempt matter to this Court on November 14, 2004.
In February 2005, Mr. Williamson failed to appear at the rehearing of the custody matter docketed under number P658. The trial court therefore dismissed Mr. Williamson's petition to rehear and reaffirmed its order of June 16, 2004. Like the October 2004 order, however, this order included no indication that it had been filed with the clerk of the court.
After reviewing Mr. Williamson's notice of appeal of the matter docketed under number P155, this Court[, in Williamson I, ] ordered Mr. Williamson to show cause why the matter should not be dismissed for lack of a final judgment. In May 2005, Mr. Williamson, now represented by counsel, filed a motion to consolidate the matters docketed under numbers P155 and P658 in the trial court. The matters were consolidated by the trial court on June 22, 2005.
On June 1, 2006, this Court[, in Williamson I, ] dismissed the matter for lack of jurisdiction because the trial court's orders did not "bear any indicia, on their face, of entry by the clerk of the court." The trial court properly filed its order, amended certificates of service were entered, and the order became final on September 11, 2006. Oral argument was heard in this Court on July 18, 2007. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson II, 2007 WL 2200287, at *1-2. In Williamson II, Mr. Williamson only appealed the trial court's custody determination in its September 11, 2006 order. Williamson II, 2007 WL 2200287, at *2 ("The sole issue presented for review is whether the trial court erred in determining that no material change in circumstance warranting the modification of child custody has occurred since the entry of the initial custody order."). Accordingly, the May 2003 order, which (under Williamson II) "became final on September 11, 2006," remained in effect and was not disturbed on appeal. The May 2003 order set Mr. Williamson's child support at $521 per month.

         On June 11, 2007, Appellee filed a petition to modify Mr. Williamson's child support alleging that "since the entry of the last order of support there ha[d] been a significant variance between the Tennessee Child Support guidelines and the amount of child support . . . ordered, such that a modification in child support [was] justified." On October 2, 2007, Appellant Mr. Williamson filed a petition to establish his child support arrears. Specifically, Mr. Williamson's petition states that Mr. Williamson "had physical custody of [M.A.W.] from May 2003 to August 2003, May 2004 to August 2004, and May 2005 to August 2005," during which time periods Appellant allegedly "provided necessaries on behalf of said child." Based on the foregoing averments, Mr. Williamson asked the court to establish his child support arrears and to allow him a credit for necessaries provided during the time Mr. Williamson had custody of the Child. In response to Mr. Williamson's petition, on December 10, 2007, Appellee State of Tennessee ex rel. Townsend, petitioned the trial court to find Mr. Williamson in contempt for his failure to pay child support in the amount of $521 per month, as set in the May 2003 order (which became final on September 11, 2006). All of these petitions were heard by the juvenile court referee on March 27, 2008. On the same day, the juvenile court approved the findings and recommendations of the referee, which were that: (1) Mr. Williamson was in contempt of court for failure to pay the $521 per month in child support; (2) Mr. Williamson would be confined to jail until he paid $500 toward his total child support arrearage; (3) Mr. Williamson's child support obligation would be decreased from $521 per month to $374 per month beginning July 1, 2007.

         On May 27, 2010, Mr. Williamson filed a petition to modify child support. By order of August 23, 2010 the juvenile court magistrate denied Mr. Williamson's petition. Mr. Williamson filed a petition for hearing before the judge, which was granted. The trial court heard Mr. Williamson's petition to modify child support on October 5, 2010. By order of October 20, 2010, the juvenile court held, in relevant part, that "the previous order of this Court entered on March 27, 2008 be modified to increase child support payments by income assignment from $374 monthly to $545 monthly beginning October 1, 2010. . . ."

         On October 20, 2015, Mr. Williamson filed a petition "to modify order, petition to set arrearages and for credit to arrearages," and to terminate child support (based on the child reaching majority). The magistrate heard the petition on December 1, 2015 and entered its initial findings and recommendations on January 8, 2016. The magistrate entered corrected findings and recommendations on February 1, 2016, finding, in relevant part:

2. That the previous order of the Court entered on October 5, 2010 be modified to decrease child support payments from $545.00 per month to $352.00 per month beginning November 1, 2015 to be paid by income assignment . . . .
3. That the child support arrears shall be paid by income assignment at the rate of $50.00 per month beginning November 1, 2015. Payment of arrears at the rate shown above is a minimum payment and does not preclude the petitioner from collecting the judgment by other means . . . .

The magistrate continued the hearing until February 23, 2016 "at the request of the State to contact the State of Illinois to determine what, if any support was paid through Illinois, and for the State of Tennessee to prepare an arrears computation." The case was further continued until May 17, 2016. Following the hearing on May 17, 2016, the magistrate entered findings and recommendations on June 8, 2016. The magistrate terminated Mr. Williamson's child support obligation, effective May 31, 2016. The magistrate further ordered that Mr. Williamson would pay his child support arrearage at a rate of $150.00 per month, beginning June 1, 2016. The court then continued that case until July 26, 2016 "for [Appellant] to provide proof of income and for the State to prepare arrears calculations including the ...


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