R.B. and A.B.
from Talladega Juvenile Court (JU-12-100195.06)
April 2016, J.M. ("the mother") filed in the
Talladega Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") a
petition seeking modification of a 2015 custody judgment that
had awarded custody of R.K. ("the child") to R.B.
and A.B. ("the custodians"). Both the mother and
J.A.K. ("the father") had been awarded visitation
with the child under the 2015 custody judgment. The juvenile
court held a trial on the mother's petition on June 14,
2016. The mother appeared at the trial with counsel; the
father and the custodians, however, appeared at trial pro se.
On July 7, 2016, the juvenile court entered a judgment
awarding the father custody of the child.
mother and the custodians filed postjudgment motions, the
mother on July 14, 2016, and the custodians on July 15, 2016
("the postjudgment motions"). The juvenile court
held a hearing on the postjudgment motions on July 28, 2016,
14 days after the mother's postjudgment motion was filed
and the final day on which to rule on her motion.
See Rule 1(B)(1), Ala. R. Juv. P. (providing that a
postjudgment motion is denied by operation of law if the
juvenile court does not render an order on the motion within
14 days of its filing or within the period of any extension
of that time); see also Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P.
(governing the automatic denial of postjudgment motions by
operation of law in civil actions). At the July 28, 2016,
hearing, the juvenile-court judge recognized that he had to
rule on the mother's motion on that day and on the
custodians' motion by the following day, July 29, 2016.
The transcript of the hearing reflects that the
juvenile-court judge stated his intention to enter an order
under Rule 1(B)(1) extending for an additional 14 days his
time to rule on the postjudgment motions. The parties made no
objection to the juvenile-court judge's stated intention,
and the juvenile court rendered an order on July 28, 2016,
extending the time for ruling on the postjudgment motions for
an additional 14 days ("the extension order"). The
extension order, however, was not entered into the State
Judicial Information System by the juvenile-court clerk until
August 1, 2016.
August 8, 2016, before the expiration of the additional
14-day period, the juvenile court entered an order granting
the postjudgment motions. The August 8, 2016, order set aside
the July 7, 2016, judgment awarding custody to the father.
That order also reinstated the 2015 judgment awarding custody
of the child to the custodians and ordered that the
provisions of that judgment would remain in effect pending a
trial on the matter. On August 15, 2016, the juvenile court
set the matter for a new trial to be held on August 30, 2016.
August 30, 2016, the father, then represented by counsel,
filed what he styled as a response to the postjudgment
motions. The substance of the motion, however, challenged the
juvenile court's extension order and the resulting August
8, 2016, order. See, e.g., Ex parte
Alfa Mut. Gen. Ins. Co., 684 So.2d 1281, 1282 (Ala.
1996) (quoting Union Springs Tel. Co. v. Green, 285
Ala. 114, 117, 229 So.2d 503, 505 (1969)) ("The
'character of a [motion] is determined and interpreted
from its essential substance, and not from its descriptive
name or title.'"); Ex parte Lang, 500 So.2d
3, 4 (Ala. 1986) (construing a motion based on its substance
and stating that "[i]t is clear that under our Rules of
Civil Procedure the nomenclature of a motion is not
controlling"). The father contended that the juvenile
court's jurisdiction to act on the postjudgment motions
had expired before the entry of the extension order on August
1, 2016, and that, therefore, both the extension order and
the August 8, 2016, order, having been entered after the
expiration of the original 14-day period for ruling on the
postjudgment motions, were void. See K.M.G. v. B.A.,
73 So.3d 708, 712 (Ala. Civ. App. 2011) (explaining that if a
juvenile court does not rule on a postjudgment motion within
14 days, the juvenile court loses jurisdiction over the
motion). The father further posited that the July 7, 2016,
judgment was still in effect. Although the father contends
that his motion was a Rule 60(b)(4), Ala. R. Civ. P., motion
alleging that the extension order and the August 8, 2016,
order were void, see Jefferson Cty. Bd. of Health v.
Birmingham Hide & Tallow Co., 38 So.3d 714, 717
(Ala. 2009) ("Rule 60(b)(4) permits a court to relieve a
party from a final judgment if the judgment is void."),
because the juvenile court's August 8, 2016, order
granted a new trial, that order was an interlocutory order
and not a final judgment to which a Rule 60(b)(4) motion
could be directed. See Hallman v. Marion Corp., 411
So.2d 130, 132 (Ala. 1982) ("Interlocutory orders ...
are ... not brought within the restrictive provisions of Rule
60(b), Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides for
relief from final judgments. Instead, such orders are left
within the plenary power of the court that rendered them to
afford relief from them as justice requires."). Thus,
the father's motion was a motion seeking reconsideration
of the juvenile court's August 8, 2016, interlocutory
juvenile court addressed the father's motion at the
August 30, 2016, trial setting. After hearing arguments of
counsel, the juvenile court stated on the record that it was
denying the father's motion. The juvenile court then
conducted a new trial on the mother's modification
petition. On August 31, 2016, the juvenile court entered a
judgment denying the father's motion and the mother's
petition for modification.
father timely appealed. On appeal, he argues that the
juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to extend the time for
ruling on the postjudgment motions because the extension
order was not entered until after the expiration of the
original 14-day period for ruling on those motions. Thus, he
contends, the extension order, the August 8, 2016, order, and
the August 31, 2016, judgment are void.
noted above, the juvenile court stated on the record at the
July 28, 2016, hearing its intention to extend the time to
rule on the postjudgment motions under Rule 1(B)(1). To
better assist us in addressing the father's arguments, we
will set out both Rule 1(A) and Rule 1(B) in their entirety.
"(A) These Rules shall be known as the Alabama Rules of
Juvenile Procedure and shall govern the procedure for all
matters in the juvenile court. If no procedure is
specifically provided in these Rules or by statute, the
Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure shall be applicable to those
matters that are considered civil in nature and the Alabama
Rules of Criminal Procedure shall be applicable to those
matters that are considered criminal in nature. Except as
otherwise provided by constitutional provision, statute,
these Rules, or other rules adopted by the Supreme Court of
Alabama, the Alabama Rules of Evidence shall apply in all
proceedings in the juvenile courts. For all matters in the
juvenile courts, the phrase 'entry of order or
judgment' shall have the same meaning as prescribed in
Rule 58(c) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.
"(B) Procedure shall be uniform in all juvenile courts,
whether at the circuit court or the district court level or
in the circuit court by trial de novo. In all juvenile
courts, if an answer or other pleading is filed by a party
pursuant to Rule 12, Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, the
answer or other pleading shall be filed within the 14-day
period provided in Rule 12(dc), Alabama Rules of Civil
Procedure, regardless of whether the juvenile courts are
circuit courts or district courts. All postjudgment motions,
whether provided for by the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure
or the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, must be filed
within 14 days after entry of order or judgment and shall not
remain pending for more than 14 days, unless, within that
time, the period during which a postjudgment motion may
remain pending is extended:
"(1) By written order of the juvenile court on its own
motion, or upon motion of a party for good cause shown, for
not more than 14 additional days; or
"(2) Upon the express written consent of all the
parties, which consent shall ...