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Blackburn v. Blackburn

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

April 10, 2015

Karen Lincecum Blackburn
v.
David Blackburn

          Appeal from Fayette Circuit Court. (DR-12-82).

         Karen Lincecum Blackburn, Appellant, Pro se.

         For Appellee: Thomas E. Harrison, Mobile.

         THOMAS, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.

          OPINION

         THOMAS, Judge.

Page 17

          Karen Lincecum Blackburn (" the wife" ) and David Blackburn (" the husband" ) were married on November 6, 2004, in Louisiana. The parties later moved to Mobile; it is undisputed that the parties were residents of Alabama when this action commenced. On January 11, 2013, the husband filed a complaint seeking a divorce in the Mobile Circuit Court (" the trial court" ), alleging as grounds incompatibility of temperament and an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. On January 16, 2013, the wife filed an answer to the complaint and a counterclaim seeking a divorce in which she alleged incompatibility of temperament and that the husband had committed acts of domestic violence.

         The parties subsequently filed several motions dealing with, among other things, discovery and pendente lite support. On July 11, 2013, the wife filed a " motion to enforce the covenant marriage contract," in which she asserted that the parties had been married subject to the Louisiana Covenant Marriage Act (" the Act" ), codified at La. Rev. Stat. Ann., § 9:272 et seq., and that the provisions of the Act governed the divorce action between the parties. After a hearing, the trial court entered an order on September 6, 2013, denying the wife's motion to enforce the parties' covenant-marriage contract.

         A trial began on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at which the wife appeared pro se and the trial court heard evidence ore tenus. The trial was scheduled to continue on the next day; however, the wife requested a continuance due to a flooding emergency at the marital home; the trial court granted a continuance to Monday, April 21, 2014. On that day, the trial court stated on the record that wife was not present at the trial, that she had requested a second continuance that morning, and that her second request for a continuance had been denied; [1] the husband rested his case. The trial court entered a judgment on April 22, 2014, divorcing the parties and dividing the marital property.[2] The wife filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate or, in the alternative, for a new trial on May 22, 2014. After a hearing, the trial court denied the wife's postjudgment motion on August 8, 2014. The wife timely appealed to this court on September 19, 2014.

         The first issue the wife raises in her pro se brief on appeal is whether the trial court erred by failing to enforce the Act. The Act, enacted in 1997, provides, in part:

" A. A covenant marriage is a marriage entered into by one male and one female who understand and agree that the marriage between them is a lifelong relationship. ...

Page 18

" B. A man and woman may contract a covenant marriage by declaring their intent to do so on their application for a marriage license, as provided in [La. Rev. Stat. Ann., 9:224(C), and executing a declaration of intent to contract a covenant marriage, as provided in [La. Rev. Stat. Ann.,] 9:273. The application for a marriage license andthe declaration of intent shall be filed with the official who issues the marriage license
" C. A covenant marriage terminates only for one of the causes enumerated in [Louisiana] Civil Code Article 101.[3] A covenant marriage may be terminated by divorce only upon one of the exclusive grounds enumerated in [La. Rev. Stat. Ann.,] 9:307.A covenant marriage agreement may not be dissolved, ...

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