Why you should keep your address up-to-date with the courts, especially if you have
any continuous responsibilities from your court case.
It is not unheard of for parties to move to a new residence after their case is over. You are advised that as long as you have an ongoing court obligation, be it child support, time sharing, alimony or any other obligation, you need to keep your address on file current.
Unfortunately, a party in a recent First District Court of Appeals case found this out the hard way. In Lowery v. Carney, the court completely changed custody of a minor child from the Mother to the Father. The Mother was not at the hearing when this happened. She found out afterwards and indicated she had no notice of the hearing. There was dispute as to what her current address was and if she received proper notice of the hearing. In general, everyone is given due process and a court cannot enter an order without giving you the opportunity to be heard, especially an order that changes custody.
The trial court found that the mother was given proper notice of the hearing based in part on the fact that the notice was served by mail on the mother at “144 Pinecone Court, Pembroke, NC” which was an address Mother provided at a previous hearing. The trial court's finding that the mother provided this address was supported by the transcript of the April 20 hearing, which reflects that the father's attorney represented to the court that:
In anticipation for this hearing, I served the last known address in North Carolina, 147 Pine Cone Court. And during [the January 16] hearing she actually gave us another address, I believe it was Pine Cone Court, which was a new address. I attempted service on both of those. Both of those came back returned, recipient not there.
The mother argued on appeal that she was not properly served with notice of the April 20 hearing because the address she gave the court at the January 16 hearing was 149 Pinecone Court, not 144 Pinecone Court. Unfortunately, there was no transcript of the hearing. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s ruling and found that the Mother had proper notice of the hearing. Therefore, the order that transferred custody was upheld. This is an absolutely extreme and unfair ruling. I’m pretty shocked that this was the outcome. This could all have been avoided if the Mother had kept her current address updated in the court file.
The Mother could have avoided this outcome simply by filing a Designation of Current Mailing and Email Address with the Court. (Click here for a link to the form). It is imperative that you fill out this form if you change your address.
If you have any questions related to your court case, or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law, you may always contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.