Appeals from Lauderdale Circuit Court. (DR-07-9.02 and
Appellant: Dinah P. Rhodes of Rhodes & Creech, L.L.C.,
Appellee: Carla Putman Maples, Florence.
Presiding Judge. Pittman, Thomas, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ.,
THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.
Howard Walker (" the father" ) appeals from two
judgments of the Lauderdale Circuit Court (" the trial
court" ). In one judgment, the trial court denied the
State of Alabama's request, on behalf of the father, for
child support; in the other, the trial court modified the
physical custody of the two children born of the father's
marriage to Courtney R. Lanier (" the mother" ).
2008, the trial court entered a judgment divorcing the
parties. That judgment awarded primary physical custody of
the children to the father and awarded the mother visitation.
Although the divorce judgment is not contained in the record
on appeal, the father claims that the parties agreed that the
mother would not be required to pay any child support
because, according to the father, she maintained only
part-time employment at the time of the divorce.
August 23, 2010, the State of Alabama, on behalf of the
father, filed in the trial court a petition to modify the
parties' divorce judgment. That petition was assigned
case number DR-07-9.02 (" the child-support case" )
in the trial court. In its petition, the State alleged that
the children's needs had increased since the divorce
judgment and that the State had reason to believe the mother
was financially capable of contributing toward the
children's support. Thus, the State requested, among
other things, that the trial court order the mother to pay
child support for the benefit of the children. The mother
answered the State's petition and denied the allegations
December 20, 2010, the mother filed in the trial court a
single pleading containing a petition for contempt and a
request to modify visitation. That pleading was assigned case
number DR-07-9.03 (hereinafter sometimes referred to as
" the custody-modification case" ) in the trial
court. The mother alleged that the father had
refused to cooperate with her regarding visitation. Thus, the
mother asked that the trial court hold the father in contempt
for his alleged failure to comply with the visitation
provisions contained in the divorce judgment, and she asked
the trial court to increase her visitation with the
children. The father answered the mother's pleading and
denied the allegations contained therein.
the trial court held a hearing on either case, the mother
filed an " Emergency Motion for an Immediate Change in
Custody" in case number DR-07-9.03 on March 30, 2012. In
that motion, the mother alleged that she had evidence
indicating that the father had physically abused the
children. The mother indicated that the Lauderdale County
Department of Human Resources and the Lauderdale County
district attorney's office were investigating the
allegations and that she expected criminal charges to be
filed. Thus, the mother asked the trial court to enter a
judgment awarding " temporary" physical custody of
the children to her and, after a hearing, to enter a judgment
awarding primary physical custody of the children to her. The
father filed in the trial court a response denying the
allegations of abuse.
trial court consolidated the two cases and received evidence
at three hearings held between July 2012 and September 2013.
Other than a few motions to continue, there is no explanation
in the record for the delay between the first and final
hearings. On May 5, 2014, before the trial court had entered
judgments in the two cases, the mother filed in the trial
court a " Renewed Ex-parte Motion for Custody." It
is unclear from the record why the trial court had yet to
enter judgments after concluding the hearings in September
2013. In her motion, the mother claimed that, since the
conclusion of the trial, she had received new evidence
indicating that the father had committed domestic violence.
Thus, the mother requested that the trial court grant her
" ex parte, temporary custody" of the children and
that the trial ...