Tennessee Divorce Court Decision.

Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal involves a juvenile court’s subject matter jurisdiction to address a postdivorce matter of child support. The parties were divorced through judgment entered by the Knox County Fourth Circuit Court. Although the Circuit Court initially ordered the mother to pay child support for the parties’ three children, the Circuit Court subsequently entered an agreed order in 2008, directing that neither party would be obligated to pay child support from that date forward.

The father commenced the instant action on June 7, 2010, by filing a petition in the Knox County Juvenile Court, alleging dependency and neglect as to the mother. Following a hearing conducted on February 14, 2011, the Juvenile Court entered an agreed order awarding “custody” to the father and finding the children dependent and neglected as to the mother. The father subsequently filed a petition to set child support. Following a hearing conducted on June 1, 2012, the Juvenile Court magistrate entered findings and recommendations, setting the mother’s child support obligation.

Meanwhile, upon an adjudicatory hearing, the Juvenile Court judge dismissed the father’s dependency and neglect petition on September 24, 2012. The mother then filed a motion to “set” the father’s child support obligation. Following a hearing conducted on July 16, 2013, the magistrate found that the mother owed no current child support but did owe an arrearage. At each of the hearings before the magistrate, the mother raised the issue of whether the Juvenile Court could properly exercise subject matter jurisdiction over child support in light of the previous orders entered by the Fourth Circuit Court. On April 1, 2013, the mother filed a motion to set aside the magistrate’s child support orders.

Following a hearing, the Juvenile Court judge found that the magistrate had properly exercised subject matter jurisdiction only so long as the dependency and neglect action was pending. The Juvenile Court therefore affirmed the magistrate’s June 1, 2012 findings and recommendations but set aside the July 16, 2013 findings and recommendations. The Juvenile Court further found that all issues arising subsequent to dismissal of the dependency and neglect petition should be decided by the Circuit Court. Mother has appealed to this Court. Having determined that, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-159(a), the Circuit Court has sole jurisdiction to hear this appeal flowing from a dependency and neglect action, we transfer this appeal to the Knox County Fourth Circuit Court.

For the reasons stated above, we transfer this case to the Fourth Circuit Court for Knox County, Tennessee. We note that pursuant to the trial court’s February 9, 2015 order, no costs were to be taxed in this matter in the trial court. Costs on appeal to this Court are taxed one-half to the appellant, Tanya L. Blandford, and one-half to the appellee, Daniel E. Blandford.

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