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State ex rel. Ja'Quezz G. v. Teablo P.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

April 15, 2016

STATE OF NEBRASKA ON BEHALF OF JA'QUEZZ G., A MINOR CHILD, APPELLANT,
v.
TEABLO P., DEFENDANT AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF, APPELLEE, AND SASHA G., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT, APPELLEE

          Appeal from the District Court for Douglas County: KIMBERLY MILLER PANKONIN, Judge.

         Sarah E. Preisinger, of Child Support Services, for appellant.

         Marian G. Heaney and Katherine H. Owen, of Legal Aid of Nebraska, for appellee Teablo P.

         HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, STACY, and KELCH, JJ.

          OPINION

          [293 Neb. 338] Wright, J.

         NATURE OF CASE

         This case presents the question of what method of service of process upon the putative father is required in a paternity proceeding brought under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-1411 (Reissue 2008). The district court determined that personal service of process was required in an action for paternity, and because Teablo P. had not been personally served, it granted Teablo's motion for summary judgment and vacated the default judgment of paternity and support. The State appeals.

         BACKGROUND

         Ja'Quezz G. is a minor child born out of wedlock and residing in the State of Nebraska. It is not disputed that Teablo is not Ja'Quezz' biological father, and there are no other material facts in dispute.

         On September 28, 2008, Ja'Quezz' mother, Sasha G., completed a paternity questionnaire for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. She affirmatively represented that she had not had sexual intercourse with any man other than Teablo either 2 months before or after the probable date of Ja'Quezz' conception. Based on that representation, the State of Nebraska sued Teablo on behalf of Ja'Quezz to establish paternity and an award for child support. The complaint was filed on December 12, 2008.

         Notice

         The State attempted twice to have Teablo personally served with notice of the paternity proceeding at two different street addresses in Omaha, Nebraska, and on two separate dates: December 12, 2008, and January 29, 2009. Both attempts were unsuccessful. The service returns indicated that Teablo did not reside at either location.

         Having been unsuccessful in its attempts to personally serve Teablo, the State elected to serve Teablo with notice of the paternity proceeding by certified mail. It did not request the court's permission to change the manner of service upon [293 Neb. 339] Teablo. On April 13, 2009, notice was mailed to a third address in Omaha. This was the address that Teablo had provided to his probation officer. At this address, Teablo's grandmother signed a return receipt indicating that she accepted delivery of the summons and complaint. In a subsequent proceeding to set aside the paternity and order for child support, Teablo filed a sworn statement stating that he was homeless and did not have an address of his own when the original complaint for paternity was filed.

         Default

         On or about May 20, 2009, notice of a default hearing to be held on May 27 was sent to Teablo at the same address provided to his probation officer. The hearing was held, but Teablo did not appear. On May 29, the court entered a default order finding Teablo to be Ja'Quezz' father and requiring him to pay $91 per month in child support.

         After Default

         On January 7, 2010, Teablo, acting pro se, moved to vacate the " Order of Support." The motion did not contain a certificate of service and was never set for hearing. The motion identified Teablo's current address in Omaha. At an October 2012 contempt proceeding, Teablo requested genetic testing. The testing conclusively determined that Teablo was not Ja'Quezz' father. On January 3, 2014, with the aid of counsel, Teablo filed a complaint to set aside the order of paternity and the award of child support. Teablo moved to vacate the order for lack of service. Teablo subsequently filed an amended ...


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