Mr. G v. Mrs. G, No. 2400

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtGOOLSBY; HOWELL; HEARN; HEARN
Citation465 S.E.2d 101,320 S.C. 305
PartiesMR. G, Appellant, v. MRS. G, Respondent. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 2400
Decision Date14 September 1995

Page 101

465 S.E.2d 101
320 S.C. 305
MR. G, Appellant,
v.
MRS. G, Respondent.
No. 2400.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard Sept. 14, 1995.
Filed Oct. 30, 1995.
Rehearing Denied Dec. 21, 1995.

Page 102

[320 S.C. 306] Robert A. Bruce, Gatlin Law Firm, Rock Hill, for appellant.

Connie H. Payne, Ridley, Ridley & Burnette, Rock Hill, for respondent.

GOOLSBY, Judge.

This is an appeal from an order granting a motion to dismiss. Mr. G filed a petition to set aside a child support order based on alleged misrepresentations of paternity made by his former wife, Mrs. G, while they were married. The family court granted Mrs. G's motion to dismiss the petition and awarded her attorney fees. Mr. G appeals. We affirm.

Two and one-half years after being declared in a divorce decree entered on December 18, 1991, to be the father of a little girl born on November 7, 1987, 1 Mr. G seeks an order declaring [320 S.C. 307] him not to be the child's father, relieving him of having to pay for her support, and ordering Mrs. G to reimburse him for the "support previously paid" by him. His complaint alleges his former wife repeatedly lied to him about his being the little girl's "natural father." Her alleged misrepresentations, he claims, constitute fraud and warrant the setting aside of the finding of paternity made in the divorce decree, an issue he had chosen not to contest during the divorce proceedings. The family court dismissed the complaint, holding principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel now preclude Mr. G "from raising the issue of paternity." The family court viewed Mr. G's allegations of fraud as allegations of intrinsic fraud and held intrinsic fraud cannot now be used to set aside the finding in the prior order regarding paternity.

Mr. G argues he is entitled to a hearing on the issue of paternity because the alleged misrepresentations Mrs. G made to him concerning the paternity of the child in question denied him a fair opportunity to litigate the issue and, thus, amounted to extrinsic fraud. We disagree.

The threshold issue in this case is whether the fraud Mr. G alleges amounts to intrinsic or extrinsic fraud. A party may not use intrinsic fraud to mount an attack upon a

Page 103

judgment if the judgment is more than one year old. See Rule 60(b)(3), SCRCP (an action to set aside a judgment based on fraud must be brought no later than one year after entry of the judgment); 2 Evans v. Gunter, 294 S.C. 525, 366 [320 S.C. 308] S.E.2d 44 (Ct.App.1988) (doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel will not bar a collateral attack on a judgment based on extrinsic fraud).

In Evans, the father

claimed he was induced to sign an affidavit of acceptance waiving his right to "answer, demur or otherwise plead or make an appearance before the court" in the divorce action brought by [the mother]. He claims this was done when he was "sufficiently intoxicated to be reckless or incoherent about what he was signing" and this resulted in his not being notified of or present at the final hearing.

294 S.C. at 526-27, 366 S.E.2d at 45 (emphasis added). We held the fraud alleged in Evans to be "extrinsic" fraud, "extrinsic" fraud being defined as a "fraud[ ] ... collateral or external to the matter tried...." Id. at 529, 366 S.E.2d at 46 (emphasis added). The fraud there alleged was extrinsic because it was collateral or external to the issue of paternity, a matter determined by the family court in the prior divorce action, and because it deprived the other party of his right to a fair opportunity to present his case to the court. See City of San Francisco v. Cartagena, 35 Cal.App.4th 1061, 41 Cal.Rptr.2d 797, 801 (1995) ("The essence of extrinsic fraud is one party's preventing the other from having his day in court.").

"[F]raud is intrinsic and not a valid ground for setting aside a judgment when [a] party has been given notice of the action and has had an opportunity to present his case and to protect himself from any mistake or fraud of his adversary but has unreasonably neglected to do so." City of San Francisco, 41 Cal.Rptr.2d at 801. A claim of intrinsic fraud "goes to the merits of the prior proceeding which the moving party should have guarded against at the time." Id.; see Evans, 294 S.C. at 529, 366 S.E.2d at 46 (quoting H. LIGHTSEY & J. FLANAGAN, SOUTH CAROLINA CIVIL PROCEDURE at 405 (2d ed. 1985), " 'Relief is granted for extrinsic but not intrinsic fraud on the theory that the latter deceptions should be discovered during the litigation itself, and to permit such relief undermines the stability of all judgments.' ").

Here, the alleged fraud, Mrs. G's lying to Mr. G about the paternity of the child in controversy, is intrinsic, not extrinsic, [320 S.C. 309] because the alleged misrepresentation relates directly, not collaterally, to a matter determined in the former proceedings, namely the question of the child's paternity. Mr. G alleged nothing to suggest he did not have notice of the prior divorce action as well as an opportunity in that action both to offer the view that he was not the father of the child and to protect himself against any fraud practiced upon him by Mrs. G regarding the paternity of the child. Mr. G, however, elected not to take advantage of that opportunity when he did not challenge Mrs. G's allegation that the child was a product of their marriage. Inasmuch as he was afforded his day in court and exercised his discretion whether to admit or deny the allegation of paternity by admitting the allegation, it should not be the business of the court now to investigate his reasons for his action or to correct any mistakes he made in exercising that discretion. 3

Page 104

Moreover, a holding by this court that Mr. G has alleged extrinsic fraud would undermine the finality of virtually every paternity and child support order in this state, whether the order results from a paternity case instituted by the Department of Social Services or someone else or from a divorce case. Any father would be free to seek another opportunity to challenge a child support order by simply saying, as did Mr. G here, he was induced not to litigate the issues of paternity and child support on the basis that he was not the father of the child because the mother lied to him when she told him he was the child's father and he believed her.

Prior child support orders would not be the only prior orders vulnerable to attack if we were to find Mr. G has alleged extrinsic fraud. Prior spousal support orders and orders effecting a distribution of marital assets could likewise be challenged [320 S.C. 310] where a spouse alleges the other spouse lied about his or her fidelity or about the existence of assets.

Given the limited authority under Rule 60(b)(3), SCRCP, for a South Carolina court to grant relief from a judgment in a divorce decree finalized for more than a year, it is clear that the overriding policy in South Carolina, as that in Maryland, "emphasizes that once a case is decided, it shall remain decided with certain very narrow exceptions." Tandra S. v. Tyrone W., 336 Md. 303, 648 A.2d 439, 449 (1994). 4

We therefore uphold the family court's decision to dismiss the complaint on the basis of res judicata, the complaint's allegations themselves making that result self-evident because the fraud therein alleged, at most, constitutes intrinsic fraud. Evans, 294 S.C. at 529, 366 S.E.2d at 46; Anonymous v. Anonymous, 473 So.2d 502 (Ala.Civ.App.1984); see Vinson v. Vinson, 725 S.W.2d 121, 122 (Mo.Ct.App.1987) (the doctrine of collateral estoppel barred a former husband from relitigating the issue of a child's paternity and the former husband was not entitled to have the prior decree set aside on the ground of extrinsic fraud where the wife had "repeatedly assured him that he was the father" of the child); Brown v. Superior Court, 98 Cal.App.3d 633, 159 Cal.Rptr. 604, 606 (1979) (where the father admitted paternity during a prior divorce proceeding and the mother later told others that he was not the child's father, he was not entitled to a blood test to assist him in demonstrating extrinsic fraud 10 years later because the blood tests were "directed to the ultimate issue, paternity"); cf. Eichman v. Eichman, 285 S.C. 378, 329 S.E.2d 764 (1985) (the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel barred a husband from relitigating the issue of a child's paternity in a divorce proceeding when the husband had been found to be the father of the child in a previous family court proceeding). The fraud alleged in the complaint, being intrinsic fraud, may not serve, therefore, as a basis for relieving Mr. G from the prior judgment, a judgment...

To continue reading

Request your trial
20 practice notes
  • Nelson v. QHG OF SOUTH CAROLINA INC., No. 3626.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 14, 2003
    ...Toussaint v. Ham, 292 S.C. 415, 357 S.E.2d 8 (1987); Cowart v. Poore, 337 S.C. 359, 523 S.E.2d 182 (Ct.App.1999); Mr. G. v. Mrs. G., 320 S.C. 305, 465 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995). 354 S.C. 301 Dismissal of an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is appealable. Williams, 347 S.C. at 233, 553 S.E.2d......
  • Jamison v. Ford Motor Co., No. 4220.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 19, 2007
    ...its case. Id. (citing Hilton Head Ctr. of S.C., Inc. v. Pub. Serv., Comm'n of S.C., 294 S.C. 9, 362 S.E.2d 176 (1987); Mr. G. v. Mrs. G., 320 S.C. 305, 465 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995)). "Relief is granted for extrinsic fraud on the theory that because the fraud prevented a party from fully exh......
  • Gainey v. Gainey, No. 4515.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 4, 2009
    ...relief would undermine the stability of all judgments. Raby Const., L.L.P., 358 S.C. at 20, 594 S.E.2d at 483 (citing Mr. G v. Mrs. G, 320 S.C. 305, 308, 465 S.E.2d 101, 103 (Ct. App.1995)). The essential distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic fraud for purposes of relief from judgment......
  • Hagy v. Pruitt, No. 2837.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 4, 1998
    ...294 S.C. 525, 366 S.E.2d 44 (Ct.App.1988); Bankers Trust Co. v. Braten, 317 S.C. 547, 455 S.E.2d 199 (Ct.App.1995); Mr. G. v. Mrs. G., 320 S.C. 305, 465 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995) (Hearn, J., "Extrinsic fraud is fraud that induces a person not to present a case or deprives a person of the opp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Nelson v. QHG OF SOUTH CAROLINA INC., No. 3626.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 14, 2003
    ...Toussaint v. Ham, 292 S.C. 415, 357 S.E.2d 8 (1987); Cowart v. Poore, 337 S.C. 359, 523 S.E.2d 182 (Ct.App.1999); Mr. G. v. Mrs. G., 320 S.C. 305, 465 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995). 354 S.C. 301 Dismissal of an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is appealable. Williams, 347 S.C. at 233, 553 S.E.2d......
  • Jamison v. Ford Motor Co., No. 4220.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 19, 2007
    ...its case. Id. (citing Hilton Head Ctr. of S.C., Inc. v. Pub. Serv., Comm'n of S.C., 294 S.C. 9, 362 S.E.2d 176 (1987); Mr. G. v. Mrs. G., 320 S.C. 305, 465 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995)). "Relief is granted for extrinsic fraud on the theory that because the fraud prevented a party from fully exh......
  • Gainey v. Gainey, No. 4515.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 4, 2009
    ...relief would undermine the stability of all judgments. Raby Const., L.L.P., 358 S.C. at 20, 594 S.E.2d at 483 (citing Mr. G v. Mrs. G, 320 S.C. 305, 308, 465 S.E.2d 101, 103 (Ct. App.1995)). The essential distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic fraud for purposes of relief from judgment......
  • Hagy v. Pruitt, No. 2837.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 4, 1998
    ...294 S.C. 525, 366 S.E.2d 44 (Ct.App.1988); Bankers Trust Co. v. Braten, 317 S.C. 547, 455 S.E.2d 199 (Ct.App.1995); Mr. G. v. Mrs. G., 320 S.C. 305, 465 S.E.2d 101 (Ct.App.1995) (Hearn, J., "Extrinsic fraud is fraud that induces a person not to present a case or deprives a person of the opp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT