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Service to Last Known Address

Wake Co. obo Williams v. Wiley, 2022-NCCOA-402.

Facts: Defendant was ordered to pay child support to Plaintiff in an order from Maryland entered in 2007. For enforcement, the order was to be filed in Wake County. At that time, Defendant was over $42,000 in arrears. Plaintiff filed their notice for registration of the Maryland order and later confirmed the registration through a default judgment in 2018. Defendant next filed a motion to set aside the confirmation because she alleged that she was not properly noticed of the hearing. The trial court denied. Defendant also sought to dismiss the confirmation pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(2), (4), and (5). These were also denied. Defendant appealed.

Issue: Did the trial court err when it denied Defendant’s motions to dismiss or set aside?

Holding: No.

Rationale: Defendant’s primary argument was that she did not receive proper notice of the hearing for registration of the Maryland order because she did not reside at the address where the pleadings were mailed and that her name was misspelled on the pleadings. Under Rule 5 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, service of orders, motions, notices can be served on a party by mailing a copy to the party’s last known address. Plaintiff requested Defendant’s last known address and sent the pleadings to that address. Defendant did not contest that she lived at another address and would not tell the trial court where she currently lived. The misspelled name was just a clerical error and did not amount to evidence of service on the wrong person, as it did not leave in doubt the identity of the party intended to be sued and could be corrected in a later stage of the suit. Therefore, she was properly noticed of the registration hearing, and the trial court was affirmed.

Lessons: Last known address is one such method to obtain service on an individual pursuant to Rule 5 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. If the other party’s address is currently unknown, one such method of obtaining a last known address is to send a request to the United States Postal Service, USPS. There is a template of the USPS website. After deposit of the parcel to the last known address to the custody of the USPS, service is complete. Additionally, a minor misspelling of a name will not defeat personal jurisdiction. Note that here, Rule 5 was used to send notice rather than Rule 4, which has separate requirements for proper service. While somewhat unclear from this opinion, does the Court indicate that Notices of Registration of Foreign Order are proper if they are served by Rule 5, rather than Rule 4?