STATE OF ARIZONA ex rel. DES, Petitioner/Appellee,
THOMAS PANDOLA, Respondent/Appellee. TIFFANY G. TAYLOR, Petitioner/Appellant,
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. FC 2002-010919
The Honorable Veronica W. Brame, Judge Pro Tempore
Tiffany G. Taylor, Scottsdale Petitioner/Appellant
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Carol A.
Salvati Counsel for Petitioner/Appellee
& Bloom, PLC, Phoenix By Jay R. Bloom Counsel for
Patricia A. Orozco delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen joins and Kenton D.
Jones concurs in part and dissents in part.
Tiffany Taylor (Mother) appeals the superior court's
findings that she: was properly served with a notice of
registration of Illinois child support orders (Notice) filed
by Thomas Pandola (Father); failed to timely object to the
Notice; failed to timely object to Father's allegation
that he owed no child support arrearages; and must pay
Father's attorney fees. For the following reasons, we
affirm the findings that Mother was properly served with the
Notice and failed to timely object to the Notice. We reverse
the superior court's finding that Father owed no child
support arrearages as of the date of the registration and
vacate the award of attorney fees. Finally, we remand to the
superior court for further proceedings consistent with this
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL
Mother and Father are the natural parents of a child who was
born in 1999 when they were living in Illinois. Mother and
Father first agreed that Father would pay $3000 per month in
child support and an Illinois court so ordered in 2001.
Mother and the child then moved to Arizona. Illinois retained
jurisdiction over child support. In 2003, the Illinois court
entered a stipulated order requiring Father to pay $6000 in
arrearages to Mother and $2000 per month in ongoing child
support. In May 2004, the Illinois court entered another
stipulated order reducing Father's monthly obligation to
$1200 (the May 2004 Order).
In 2005, Father filed a request in Maricopa County Superior
Court asking to modify the May 2004 Order and reduce his
monthly obligation to $106. After some legal skirmishes,
Father and Mother submitted a stipulated order in Arizona
agreeing the superior court had jurisdiction over the matter
and requiring Father to pay support arrearages of $7146 and
support of $900 per month commencing April 1, 2006. Pursuant
to another stipulation, the Arizona court ordered in 2010
that Father's obligation would be reduced to $655 per
Father filed another petition to reduce his support
obligation in March 2013 and many filings and several court
proceedings ensued. The Arizona Department of Economic
Security (ADES) became involved pursuant to Title IV-D.
Finally, on its own motion and without ruling on Father's
modification request, the superior court asked the parties to
brief whether subject matter jurisdiction over their child
support issues was proper in Arizona. Prompted by the
court's order, ADES, Mother, and Father each averred that
the Arizona court lacked jurisdiction until the operative
Illinois order was registered in Arizona. See Glover v.
Glover, 231 Ariz. 1, 7, ¶ 23 (App. 2012). The court
so ordered and dismissed Father's March 2013 petition for
lack of jurisdiction.
On August 14, 2014, Father filed the Notice in superior
court, citing Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section
25-1302 and attaching five separate support orders from
Illinois, including the May 2004 Order that ordered Father to
pay $1200 per month in child support. On the same day, Father
also filed a "Letter of Transmittal Requesting
Registration and Enforcement of Foreign Child Support Order
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-1302(A) and §
25-1309." The letter cited two Illinois orders, the
latter of which was the May 2004 Order. At the same time,
Father also filed a "Notice of Filing Respondent's
Sworn Statement Re: Child Support Arrears Pursuant to A.R.S.
§ 25-1302(A)(3) and Other Information Required Pursuant
to A.R.S. § 25-1302(A)(4-5)." In the attached sworn
statement, Father averred that the May 2004 Order was the
most recent and stated, "[Father] is not aware of any
child support arrears owed to [Mother] in this matter."
Father served his three filings on Mother's counsel, who
executed an acceptance of service on September 4, 2014.
On August 27, 2014, ADES filed its own arrears calculation,
showing Father owed $375, 790.50 in back child support.
Father objected, arguing ADES used the wrong Illinois order
as the basis for its calculation. On October 30, ADES filed
an adjusted arrears calculation. Using a monthly obligation
of $1200, ADES recalculated Father's arrearage at
Mother did not timely object to the Notice, but instead, on
October 1, filed a response in support of ADES' initial
arrearage calculation. On November 5, Mother finally filed an
objection to Father's August 14 filing, arguing that it
had been improperly filed and served, and requested a hearing
as to the validity and enforcement of the Notice and order it
sought to register. After an evidentiary hearing, the
superior court found Mother was properly served on September
4 when her counsel accepted service on her behalf and that,
as a result, Mother had until September 24, 2014, to file an
objection but failed to do so. See A.R.S.
§§ 25-1305.B.2, -1306.B. The court held that
because Mother failed to timely object, she waived any
objection both to confirmation of the May 2004 Order and also
to Father's avowal that he owed nothing in support
arrearages as of the date of the Notice.
The superior court then affirmed registration of the $1200
support award reflected in the May 2004 Order. As to
arrearages, the court affirmed ADES' revised calculation
and found that Father's child support arrears was
"zero through August 14, 2014."
Father then filed an application for attorney fees and costs
and requested sanctions, arguing Mother's challenge to
the registration of the May 2004 Order was unreasonable.
Mother did not timely respond and the superior court awarded
Father $7000 in attorney fees.
Mother timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to
Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution, and A.R.S.
§§ 12-120.21.A.1 and -2101.A.1 (West
On appeal, Mother argues that registration of the May 2004
Order should be set aside because Father's filing was
legally insufficient and was not properly served; she also
argues the court erred by precluding her from contesting the
amount of arrears Father owed under the order. We defer to
the superior court's "factual findings and will
overturn them only if they are clearly erroneous."
Danielson v. Evans,201 Ariz. 401, 406, ¶ 13