An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA02-1441


Filed: 7 October 2003


v .                         Guilford County
                            No. 00 CVD 7855

    Appeal by defendant from order entered 22 July 2002 by Judge Lawrence C. McSwain in Guilford County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 10 September 2003.

    Attorney General Roy A. Cooper, III, by Assistant Attorney General Sonya M. Allen, for the State [plaintiff-appellee].

    Douglas S. Harris, for defendant-appellant.

    MARTIN, Judge.

    Plaintiff and defendant were divorced in the State of South Carolina on 13 February 1986. As part of the divorce order, plaintiff was awarded custody of their five children and defendant was ordered to pay weekly child support and one-half of medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance. When defendant failed to comply with these terms, he was held in contempt by the South Carolina court in April 1991 and incarcerated until September 1991. On motions by the parties, defendant's child support obligation was increased to $176.00 a month in May 1991, decreased to $70.00 in November 1991, and then increased back to $176.00 by order dated 18December 1991. At some point after his release, defendant moved to North Carolina and did not pay child support in any amount.
    In March 1994, the State of South Carolina, on behalf of plaintiff, filed a petition to register the 18 December 1991 child support order for enforcement in North Carolina pursuant to the provisions of North Carolina General Statute Chapter 52C, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. The Guilford County District Court denied the request to register the order because defendant had not been properly served for, nor made an appearance at, the hearing resulting in the 18 December 1991 order, and thus the South Carolina court did not have personal jurisdiction to enter it. By order dated 27 June 1994, the Guilford County District Court treated plaintiff's petition as a complaint for child support and ordered defendant to pay ongoing child support from 17 June 1994. Plaintiff's request for retroactive child support based on the 18 December 1991 South Carolina child support order was denied by order dated 8 October 1997.
    On 1 April 1998, the South Carolina Child Support Enforcement Division began garnishing defendant's wages through interstate wage withholding in order to collect upon child support not paid prior to June 1994. Five months later, on 9 September 1998, the North Carolina child support case against defendant was closed as all of the children had reached the age of majority and defendant was not in arrears for child support owed in North Carolina. Defendant then initiated an action in South Carolina heard on 30 September 1999 to terminate the garnishment of his wages and to determinethat his obligation for child support had also been satisfied in South Carolina. After the hearing, the South Carolina court held that the 18 December 1991 child support order was valid because defendant had never appealed it and thus, defendant was responsible for arrearages that had accrued under the South Carolina child support order prior to the entry of the North Carolina child support order on 27 June 1994. This amount was calculated to be $22,621.04. Due to the wage withholding by South Carolina child support enforcement, defendant received a credit of $8,713.14 towards the total amount owed. As a result, the South Carolina court concluded defendant had an outstanding balance of $13,928.06 and ordered on 13 December 1999 that he begin making payments as of 1 February 2000.
    Defendant neither appealed the 13 December 1999 order nor complied with it. The State of South Carolina, on behalf of plaintiff, consequently petitioned North Carolina for registration of the order. Defendant was served with a Notice of Registration of the order on 28 June 2000. He failed to object to the registration or request a hearing within 20 days as required by law. On 31 July 2000, defendant appeared in the district court to object to the registration and request a hearing, which he was granted over plaintiff's objections. In his subsequent written objections, defendant contested registration of the order because (1) the district court had denied plaintiff's previous request for retroactive child support on 8 October 1997, (2) the district court had dismissed the North Carolina child support case, (3) theregistration conflicted with previous orders of the district court, (4) defendant should have received a credit of $9,492.00 due to wage withholding, and (5) defendant disagreed with the amount of arrears in the order.
    Because defendant failed to object within 20 days of the order allowing registration of the 13 December 1999 South Carolina child support order, the district court treated defendant's objections as a motion to set aside the registration order pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. By order dated 9 April 2001, the district court concluded, inter alia, that defendant submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the South Carolina court by initiating the action resulting in the 13 December 1999 order addressing the arrearages for the period prior to 17 June 1994. Thus, the district court held that defendant had cured any jurisdictional problems relating to the underlying South Carolina child support order. Moreover, because South Carolina retained continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the registered order, any modification or reversal of the provisions of the order must be sought in the courts of that state.
    Defendant did not appeal from the 9 April 2001 order, but rather made a Motion for Relief from Order pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) and (6) on 18 February 2002. On 22 July 2002, the district court denied the motion, incorporating the findings of fact and conclusions of law from its 9 April 2001 order by reference. Defendant gave timely notice of appeal from the 22 July 2002 order.


    The sole question before this Court is whether the district court abused its discretion when it denied the defendant's Rule 60(b) motion to set aside the 9 April 2001 order refusing to set aside registration of a South Carolina child support order for arrears in North Carolina. See Danna v. Danna, 88 N.C. App. 680, 686, 364 S.E.2d 694, 698 (1988) (standard of review for Rule 60(b) rulings is abuse of discretion). The defendant argues in his brief that four assignments of error demonstrate that mistake, excusable neglect, and the interests of justice compelled the trial court to set aside the registration order pursuant to Rule 60(b). See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 60(b)(1) & (6) (2001) (allowing an order to be set aside for, inter alia, mistake, excusable neglect, or “any other reason justifying relief”). After thorough consideration of his arguments, we affirm the order of the district court.
    Defendant first argues the district court erred in incorporating by reference Finding of Fact #4 from the 9 April 2001 order. In the 9 April 2001 order, Finding of Fact #4 erroneously stated that “after [defendant's] release [from jail in September 1991] the Defendant did not return to South Carolina for further court hearings.” In fact, defendant did return to South Carolina on 9 October 1991 for a hearing to lower his child support obligation. Defendant asserts that the court's potential ignorance of the fact that defendant's child support order had been lower than the amount ordered in the 18 December 1991 order was critical to the court's understanding of the case and thus, the errorconstituted mistake that should have been remedied pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1). Any inadvertence by defendant's attorney in failing to correct the alleged error before the court does not qualify for relief under Rule 60(b). See Briley v. Farabow, 348 N.C. 537, 546, 501 S.E.2d 649, 655 (1998)(“ignorance nor carelessness” by an attorney is not grounds for relief pursuant to Rule 60(b)). Moreover, the mistake alleged by the defendant is immaterial to the court's ruling in the 9 April 2001 order that the South Carolina court had jurisdiction to enter its 13 December 1999 order. See Marriot Financial Services, Inc. v. Capitol Funds, Inc., 288 N.C. 122, 136, 217 S.E.2d 551, 560 (1975)(contract may be avoided on the grounds of mistake only where the mistake is material to the “essence of the agreement”). Therefore, the district court, faced with a second motion for relief addressing the same issues, did not err in incorporating the findings of fact from its previous order denying relief from the registration of the 13 December 1999 South Carolina child support order.
    Defendant's remaining arguments are attempts to re-hash issues decided in the 9 April 2001 order and not appealed. In essence, defendant is trying to challenge the validity of the 13 December 1999 South Carolina order based on lack of personal jurisdiction. A Rule 60(b) motion may not be used as a substitute for an appeal from a judgment or order. Chandak v. Elec. Interconnect Corp., 144 N.C. App. 258, 262, 550 S.E.2d 25, 28 (2001). In this case, defendant failed to object to the registration of that order within 20 days of receiving notice of registration, and the order was thusconfirmed by operation of law. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 52C-6-606(a), (b) (2001). Although the district court allowed defendant to make objections and held a hearing on the matter, the grounds on which a nonregistering party may contest registration or enforcement of an order are limited to the list contained in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 52C-6-607(a)(2001):
        (1) The issuing tribunal lacked personal jurisdiction over the contesting party;
        (2) The order was obtained by fraud;
        (3) The order has been vacated, suspended, or modified by a later order;
        (4) The issuing tribunal has stayed the order pending appeal;
        (5) There is a defense under the law of this State to the remedy sought;
        (6) Full or partial payment has been made; or
        (7) The statute of limitations under G.S. 52C-6-604 precludes enforcement of some or all of the arrears.

See also State ex rel. George v. Bray, 130 N.C. App. 552, 557, 503 S.E.2d 686, 690 (1998) (list in statute is exclusive). Defendant's arguments regarding a lack of personal jurisdiction for the 18 December 1991 order increasing his child support to $176.00 a month do not establish a lack of personal jurisdiction by the South Carolina court for its 13 December 1999 order. See Grimsley v. Nelson, 342 N.C. 542, 545, 467 S.E.2d 92, 94 (1996)(personal jurisdiction obtained by voluntary appearance before court). Defendant initiated the 13 December 1999 proceedings in South Carolina to determine his remaining child support obligation, and thus, that court's reliance on the 18 December 1991 order in determining the amount of arrears, even if invalid, does not deprive the South Carolina court of jurisdiction over defendant forthe 13 December 1999 order. Once South Carolina established valid jurisdiction to enter the order, its jurisdiction became continuing and exclusive, and the courts of this state have no authority to modify it. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 52C-2-205(d) (2001). Since defendant fails to allege any errors constituting mistake, excusable neglect, or gross injustice sufficient to warrant relief pursuant to Rule 60(b), the district court's order denying defendant's motion for relief was not an abuse of discretion and is affirmed.
    Judges BRYANT and GEER concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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