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MILDRED H. HOLDEN HAILEY v. NORMAN O. HOLDEN

OCTOBER 10, 1984

MILDRED H. HOLDEN HAILEY
v.
NORMAN O. HOLDEN



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, DAN LEE AND PRATHER

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This is an appeal from a final decree of the Chancery Court, Hancock County, dismissing Mildred H. Holden Hailey's claim against her former husband, Norman O. Holden, for past due child support payments. Hailey appeals and assigns as error:

(1) The admission of testimony by the appellee as to representations allegedly made by attorneys representing the appellant.

 (2) The chancellor's finding that appellant was equitably estopped to claim any past due child support from the appellee.

 (3) The chancellor's finding that a Louisiana judgment which reduced by half the amount of child support was entitled to full faith and credit in the present action.

 I.

 Mildred H. Holden Hailey, appellant, and Norman O. Holden, appellee, were divorced on June 29, 1969 by decree of the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia. The divorce decree granted custody of the parties' eight year old child, Tracy Robbin, to Mrs. Hailey and ordered Mr. Holden to pay $50.00 a week child support.

 In early 1971, proceedings were instituted against Mr. Holden, who was then living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for extradition to Georgia for nonpayment of child support. According to Mrs. Hailey, these proceedings were instituted by the Adult Probation Department of Atlanta which supervises child support payments under the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (hereinafter called URESA). The chancellor, however, found as a matter of fact that the proceedings were instituted by Mrs. Hailey. The present record does not contain any copy of these proceedings.

 On April 20, 1971, Mr. Holden petitioned the Family Court of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana for a reduction of his child support payments as ordered under the Georgia decree of

 1969. Pursuant to Louisiana law, an attorney, as curator ad hoc, was appointed by the court to represent Mrs. Hailey who was then living in Kinston, North Carolina. This attorney notified Mrs. Hailey of the action by registered mail, return receipt requested, on May 7, 1971 and enclosed a copy of the petition. An answer was filed on behalf of Mrs. Hailey by her curator on May 25, 1971. The answer does not challenge the jurisdiction of the Louisiana court. Mrs. Hailey did not personally appear in the family court action. Judgment was entered on June 29, 1971 reducing Holden's child support payments to $100.00 a month. The record does not reflect whether this modification petition was filed within the URESA proceeding. The chancellor's opinion found that the URESA action was terminated.

 In January of 1972, attorneys representing Mrs. Hailey sent Mr. Holden a" consent to adoption "form for Tracy Robbin. Mr. Holden signed the form and mailed it back to Mrs. Hailey's attorneys. Holden testified that it was his understanding that upon signing the form he was relieved of any further obligation to support Tracy Robbin; accordingly, he stopped making child support payments.

 According to Mrs. Hailey, in August of 1973 she contacted Mr. Holden by telephone, explained that the adoption was never completed, and asked him to send money to help pay Tracy Robbin's school expenses. Mrs. Hailey testified that Mr. Holden told her and Tracy Robbin at that time that as far as he was concerned they were both dead. According to Mr. Holden, he received no communication from either his ex-wife or Tracy Robbin until after the present action was initiated.

 Mrs. Hailey filed the present petition on April 14, 1981 seeking past due child support of $28,150.00 and attorneys' fees. At this time Tracy is a twenty-year old, working to earn money to attend college.

 The chancellor found as a matter of law that the Louisiana court order reducing child support was entitled to full faith and credit. The chancellor further found that Mrs. Hailey was equitably estopped to claim any past due child support based upon Holden's reliance upon the representation that Tracy Robbins was being adopted by Roger Wilson, Hailey's then husband. The chancery court dismissed her complaint, giving rise to this appeal.

 I.

 Appellant first assigns as error the admission, over objection, of Mr. Holden's testimony ...


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