Pruitt v. Pruitt (Tennessee 2019)

No. W2018-00453-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 2019)
February 2019

In order for a judgment to be set aside under Rule 60.02, there must be a material mistake of fact. A father who knows he is not a child’s biological parent, yet signs a paternity affidavit and agrees to pay child support in a divorce, is not operating under a mistake of fact. In this case, the mother and father had one child, who was born before their marriage. The father knew the child was not his biological child, but he signed a paternity acknowledgment. The parents later divorced, and the child was included in the decree as a child of the marriage. The father was ordered to pay support. The father later filed a motion to set aside the judgment, relying on various grounds of Rule 60. The trial court denied his motion, and he appealed. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision. It found no merit to the argument that the child’s putative father was a necessary party to the action. The court noted that this proceeding was for divorce, not paternity. It also found no mistake of fact. The father had always known the child was not his, and he has voluntarily agreed to support the child. The court also found no violation of public policy. The court didn’t impose an obligation to pay support, the father agreed to pay.