Non-Final Post-Divorce Proceeding Will Not Support Appeal

The Court of Civil Appeals dismissed an appeal from an action to modify a divorce judgment because the trial court’s decision did not include a ruling on the father’s request for a finding of contempt. Hollander v. Barnes, No. 2070627 (Ct. Civ. App. March 6, 2009). “’A final judgment is one that disposes of all the claims and controversies between the parties . . . [D]uring a postdivorce proceeding, [if] the trial court fails to rule on every pending contempt motion, its failure to do so . . . affect[s] the finality of the judgment in the postdivorce proceeding.’” Id. quoting (Decker v. Decker, 984 So. 2d 1216, 1219-20 (Ala. Civ. App. 2007)). An appellate court lacks jurisdiction to review a judgment that is not final. Judge Pittman dissented from the majority opinion.

“In my view, the trial court’s errant reference in its judgment to the father’s ‘petition to have the child support modified’ appears to have been intended as an express denial of the father’s contempt claim, which was the only other claim asserted by the father at trial that could properly have been acted upon by the trial court. Cf. Miller v. Miller, [Ms. 2060231, September 5, 2008] ___ So. 3d ___, ___ n. 1 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008) (indicating that party’s withdrawal at trial of some of that party’s previously pleaded claims may render judgment adjudicating party’s other claims final). Moreover, the father asserts no issue on appeal as to the contempt claim. In light of Rule 1, Ala. R. App. P., which counsels ‘the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every appellate proceeding on its merits,’ I would place substance over form in this case and reach the merits of the father’s appeal; therefore, I respectfully dissent from the dismissal of the appeal.” Id. (Pittman, J., dissenting).