MAXWELL, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
¶ 1. When consent for a supposedly "uncontested" adoption is gained by intentionally concealing the identity of a known natural parent from the chancellor, a fraud is perpetrated upon the court.
¶ 2. The natural father discovered the mother's deception and filed a petition to set aside the adoption. Under Rule 60(b)(6) a chancellor is authorized to hear "independent actions" to set aside a "judgment based on fraud." M.R.C.P. 60(b)(6). And that is just what the chancellor did here.
¶ 3. After review, we find it was within the chancellor's discretion to set aside the adoption based on the mother's fraud. We affirm.
Background Facts and Procedural History
¶ 4. On April 24, 2013, Luke was born in Mississippi to unmarried parents — Katy and Stan.
¶ 5. Less than a month later, Katy married Mark. And on May 24, 2014, Katy gave birth to a son, whom she named Matthew.
¶ 6. In early August, 2014, Stan and his mother asked Katy about her new child Matthew. Katy told them Matthew was born in July. But when Stan and his mother asked to see the child, Katy declined. Instead of being truthful about the adoption, Katy claimed the child was with Mark's mother and was ill. Stan continued to press Katy about Matthew, eventually threatening to seek a paternity test. And on August 10, 2014, Katy came clean and admitted to Stan that Matthew was his son. She also told him Matthew had been adopted.
¶ 7. On October 8, 2014, Stan petitioned the court to reopen Matthew's adoption, determine paternity, and set aside the adoption decree. To secure appearance of the necessary parties, Stan issued both Rule 4(c)(1) and Rule 81(d)(1) summonses to the adoptive parents and to Katy and Mark. The adoptive parents filed an entry of appearance and objection. They claimed Stan lacked standing to petition the court. And they also argued reopening the adoption was not in Matthew's best interest. The record shows Katy and Mark did not respond at all.
¶ 8. The chancellor ordered a paternity test, which was performed on January 12, 2015. The test results showed a 99.998% probability that Stan is Matthew's father. After receiving these test results, Stan and the adoptive parents entered an agreed order setting the matter for an April 21, 2015, trial.
¶ 9. Before trial, the adoptive parents filed a motion to dismiss Stan's petition. They sought dismissal under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) or, in the alternative, appointment of a guardian ad litem and temporary custody of Matthew.
Faced with this evidence, the chancellor specifically found that Katy knew Stan was Matthew's father after Mark's paternity test. And she intentionally concealed this information from the parties and the court during adoption proceedings.
¶ 11. The chancellor also found there were no attempts to locate or determine Matthew's natural father during the adoption proceedings and no service, by publication or process. Catherine's attorney acknowledged this procedural defect, conceding that Stan was not properly noticed and should have been made a party to the adoption. The chancellor also mentioned Stan's diligence. He pointed out that when Stan learned of Matthew's paternity and adoption, he immediately contacted his attorney to set aside the adoption. Ultimately, the chancellor found Katy's intentional lies and concealment of Matthew's true father's identity amounted to a fraud upon the court. And he set aside the adoption for these reasons.
¶ 12. Catherine now appeals, arguing (1) the chancellor erred in setting the adoption decree aside, (2) Stan lacked standing to petition the chancellor to set aside the adoption, and (3) process for the April 21, 2015, trial was improper.
Standard of Review
¶ 13. Our standard of review is limited. A chancellor's modification of a prior order under Rule 60(b) is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Trim, 33 So.3d at 475 (¶ 7) (citing Accredited Sur. & Cas. Co. v. Bolles, 535 So.2d 56, 58 (Miss.1988)).
I. Grounds to Set Aside the Adoption
¶ 14. A fraud upon the court is an intentional misdeed that "vitiates a judgment" because "the court is misled and deceived" about the facts it relies upon when administering the law. Trim, 33 So.3d at 477 (¶ 15) (quoting Brown v. Wesson, 114 Miss. 216, 74 So. 831, 834 (1917)). Rule 60(b)(6) gives judges broad authority to set aside judgments entered, resulting from such fraud. Trim, 33 So.3d at 475
¶ 15. "Relief based on `fraud upon the court' is reserved for only the most egregious misconduct, and requires a showing of `an unconscionable plan or scheme which is designed to improperly influence the court in its decision.'"
¶ 16. Here, the chancellor found Katy's deceptive acts and omissions — which she admitted she knowingly made — met these high marks. Katy had filed a voluntary, sworn joinder and consent to Matthew's adoption.
¶17. We have held that the effective administration of justice requires our chancellors have accurate financial information to distribute marital assets during divorce. See Trim, 33 So.3d at 477-78 (¶¶ 16, 17) (finding a party who filed a substantially false, statutorily required Rule 8.05 statement committed a fraud upon the court). So certainly, an intentional fraud aimed solely to circumvent a natural parent's statutorily mandated consent
¶ 18. The chancellor found that Katy knew who Matthew's father was after the first paternity test excluded her husband. And she withheld this information from the court and all parties involved. He held that Katy knowingly had misled the court and all parties through her testimony, affidavit, and nondisclosures regarding Matthew's paternity.
¶ 19. And because the heart of Katy's actions was designed to deceive the court, by lying about and omitting material facts to trick the court into granting a supposed uncontested adoption, the chancellor properly found that a fraud was committed
II. Rule 60(b)(6) Standing
¶ 20. Catherine is correct that Stan was not a party to Matthew's adoption. Honing in on this fact, she argues that Rule 60(b)(1) relief from the adoption decree is unavailable to Stan because he was a nonparty. See In re Adoption of A.S.E.L., 111 So.3d 1243, 1249-51 (Miss.Ct. App.2013). However, Catherine is viewing Katy's misdeeds as "fraud ... of an adverse party" — the type of fraud discussed in that case. Id. But Katy's deceptions and omissions were not mere frauds of an adverse party. Rather, the judge found they had caused a "fraud upon the court." M.R.C.P. 60(b)(6). And Rule 60(b)(6) authorizes courts to hear "independent actions" — such as the one filed by Stan — to set aside a "judgment for fraud upon the court." M.R.C.P. 60(b)(6).
¶ 21. Rule 60(b)(6) does not require that an independent action be labeled as such. Hester v. State, 749 So.2d 1221, 1223-24 (¶ 12) (Miss.Ct.App.1999) (citing Bankers Mortg. Co. v. United States, 423 F.2d 73, 77, 81 n. 7 (5th Cir.1970)). And, as federal treatment of a similar rule shows, "when the 60(b) relief is sought by an independent action, there is no time limit save laches on when the action may be brought." Id. (quoting In re Casco Chem. Co., 335 F.2d 645, 652 (5th Cir.1964)).
¶ 22. The independent-action principle has been applied by the court of appeals to a nonparty's complaint to set aside a judgement.
¶ 23. But Catherine argues that Stan's only basis for standing is under Mississippi Code Section 93-17-5(3). And this would require the chancellor to make findings under Mississippi Code Section 93-17-6(4) to determine whether Stan was entitled to notice and to be made a party under Section 93-17-5. Catherine is correct that these statutes previously have been used by unwed, putative fathers to enter an appearance and contest an adoption. But again, there is a distinction between "fraud... of an adverse party" and "fraud upon the court." Stan was not trying to establish his right to notice or object to ongoing adoption proceedings. He was arguing to set aside a final adoption obtained through fraud. And when compelling circumstances exist, Rule 60(b)(6) authorizes trial judges to set aside judgments obtained by a fraud upon the court.
¶ 24. We find that Stan's petition was an independent action under Rule 60(b)(6). And as an independent action, the chancellor
III. Failure to Notice Hearing
¶ 25. Catherine's final argument attacks the notice issued for the April 21, 2015, hearing. She cites Caples, proposing that Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 81(d) was not properly followed. Caples v. Caples, 686 So.2d 1071 (Miss.1996). In Caples, we held that when a Rule 81(d) action, not heard on the merits, is continued without an order, the proper procedure is to reissue Rule 81(d) summons, listing the new time and date the action will be heard. Id. at 1074.
¶ 26. Stan's petition originally was noticed for a November 21, 2014, hearing under Rule 81(d). But the actual hearing on the petition did not take place until April 21, 2015. The record does not show a reason for the delay. Catherine claims the chancellor either was required to issue an order continuing the hearing or for Stan to reissue his Rule 81(d) summons when the matter was not heard on November 21, 2014. But no continuance order was entered nor any additional Rule 81(d) summons issued. The record does, however, contain an agreed order setting the trial for April 21, 2015 — signed by Catherine's attorney. Because the parties agreed to the setting, we find this fact distinguishable from Caples. Accordingly, there is no notice-based reversible error.
¶ 27. Stan filed an independent action, conforming to Rule 60(b)(6), to set aside his son's adoption decree because of Katy's fraud. And Katy admitted her fraud upon the court. The chancellor was within his discretion to consider Stan's petition and set aside Matthew's adoption. We affirm the chancellor's judgment.
WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, KITCHENS, KING, COLEMAN AND BEAM, JJ., CONCUR.