Appeal from Child Support Magistrate’s Order Examined in Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce: Dawson v. Dawson

April 15, 2020 K.O. Herston 1 Comments

Facts: The parties divorced in Chancery Court in 2007, reaching an agreement as to all issues except child support. That issue was referred to the Child Support Magistrate.

I struggled to find the right word to describe this procedural history that involves Father’s many appeals of the Child Support Magistrate’s ruling approving the parties’ agreements, the multi-year delays in the entry of orders, etc., but I finally settled on ponderous.

This procedural history is ponderous.

To save you the pain and agony I suffered by reading this opinion, I will spare you the details.

Here’s what you need to know: once and for all, the trial court approved the rulings of the Child Support Magistrate accepting the parties’ agreements without conducting a de novo evidentiary hearing.

Father appealed.

On AppealThe Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Tennessee appealFather argued the Chancellor erred by failing to conduct a de novo hearing on his appeal from the Child Support Magistrate’s order approving his agreement.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-107(d) provides that a party in juvenile court may appeal a magistrate’s order to the juvenile court judge within 10 days after the order is entered, after which they will receive a de novo hearing by the judge.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-405(h) provides that a party in any court other than juvenile court may appeal a magistrate’s order to the trial court within five days after the order is entered, at which point the judge may or may not choose to rehear the issues tried by the magistrate as a factfinder.

The Court spent more time detailing the convoluted procedural history than it did in finding that Father’s argument lacks legal support:

Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-107(d) expressly provides for a de novo hearing while Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-405(h) does not. Furthermore, we note that juvenile court magistrates can be called upon to adjudicate any case or class of cases over which the juvenile court has jurisdiction, including dependency and neglect proceedings, custody proceedings, and proceedings to terminate parental rights. Clearly, these types of matters involve more than simply expediting [child] support proceedings.

We determine that Father was not automatically entitled to a de novo hearing before the Chancellor concerning his appeal of the magistrate’s child support ruling.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

K.O.’s Comment: The opinion also notes that Father was rightfully ordered by the trial court to pay Mother’s attorney’s fees at various points in the proceedings. For reasons I do not understand, it appears Mother did not request her attorney’s fees on appeal. Again, ponderous.

Dawson v. Dawson (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section, March 24, 2020).

Appeal from Child Support Magistrate’s Order Examined in Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce: Dawson v. Dawson was last modified: April 12th, 2020 by K.O. Herston

1 people reacted on this

  1. Great article! I was wondering about the magistrate’s authority and if the parties had an option to be heard by an actual judge if they did not agree to allow a magistrate to rule things like custody or child support. You don’t get to pick but, if you disagree, appealing is an option!

Leave a Comment