Delegating Division of Assets Made Divorce Judgment Non-Final

A divorce judgment was not final where it delegated to “appropriate” government agencies how the husband’s retirement benefits would be divided. Verren v. Verren, No. 2061054 (Ala. Civ. App. Sept. 26, 2008). The parties’ appeals from that judgment were dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

A husband and wife appealed from the trial court’s divorce judgment.  Among the assets the couple had contested were the husband’s military retirement benefits.  The judgment did not fully adjudicate this matter.  While it granted the wife half of the husband’s accumulated benefits, it did not declare how much of those benefits were vested, nor calculate the exact sum the wife was to receive.  Instead, the judgment provided:

The governmental department and/or agency of the United States which is appropriate to do so shall make the necessary calculations as to what specific amount, if any, is to be payable to the Wife pursuant to this award.

 The Court of Civil Appeals called this judgment non-final.  A final judgment is one that “leaves nothing for further adjudication.”  By delegating the award of retirement benefits, the trial court had failed to resolve all the issues before it.  Though the parties had not raised this problem, the lack of finality deprived the appellate court of jurisdiction.  The Court of Civil Appeals raised the issue on its own motion and dismissed the appeals.