The Year in Review: Child Support - Set Aside of Support Order

As printed in the State Bar of California Family Law News publication, below is a summary of a pivotal case regarding a set aside of child support orders.

County of San Diego v. Gorham (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th 1215

"When a default judgment against a father was found to be void for lack of personal jurisdiction over him, the court had the inherent equitable power to set it aside even though statutory periods under Family Code Section 3691 had run.

A court entered a defaul judgment for child support against a purported father. A proof of service stated that a process server had personally served him with the summons and complaint at his residence. He moved to set aside the default judgment, and provided evidence that he was incarcerated on the date of the alleged service. A trial court ruled that the proof of service was false, that extrinsic fraud had occurred, and that the default judgment was void for lack of personal jurisdiction. However, if denied the motion to set aside the judgment, because it found the motions untimely.

The court of appeal reversed and remanded with directions to dismiss the action. It found exceptional circumstances warranting equitable relief. It held that the trial court had never obtained personal jurisdiction over the purported father, so the default judgment was void as violating fundamental due process. The trial court therefore had inherent power to set aside the default judgment and was required to do so. That power was not preempted by the time limits in Family Code Section 3691. Dismissal under Code of Civil Procedure Section 583.210 was mandatory without regard to timeliness."

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