from Jefferson Circuit Court (DR-15-540)
Parker Dillard ("the mother") appeals a judgment of
the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the circuit court")
awarding Anthony Thomas LePore ("the father") sole
physical custody of the parties' child ("the
child"). Because the circuit court's judgment is
void, we dismiss the appeal.
child was born on July 24, 2006; the parties have never been
married. In 2007, the Jefferson Family Court ("the
juvenile court") entered a judgment that, among other
things, adjudicated the child's paternity, determined
custody of the child, and provided for child support. In
2012, the juvenile court entered a judgment modifying the
2007 judgment that appears to have, among other things,
awarded the parties joint legal custody of the child, awarded
the mother sole physical custody of the child,  and required the
father to pay child support. In February 2014, the mother
filed a petition for a rule nisi requesting that the juvenile
court find the father in contempt for allegedly violating
certain aspects of the juvenile court's 2012 judgment.
The mother's petition also requested that the juvenile
court modify portions of its 2012 judgment. The mother's
action was given a ".02" case designator and was
docketed as a separate action ("the .02 action").
The father answered the mother's petition.
November 2014, the father filed a modification petition in
the juvenile court seeking an award of "primary
residential and custodial privileges." The father's
action was given a ".03" case designator and was
docketed as a separate action ("the .03 action").
Later that month, the parties filed a joint motion to
consolidate the .02 action and the .03 action, which the
juvenile court later granted. In August 2015, the father
filed in both actions a "motion to modify child
support" that was not given a new case designator or
docketed as a separate action.
juvenile court conducted a trial in August 2015 and
thereafter rendered a written judgment. Although the style of
the judgment referred only to the .02 action, the body of the
judgment addressed the relief requested in each action.
Specifically, the judgment dismissed the .02 action, pursuant
to the mother's request at trial, and denied the relief
requested by the father in the .03 action. The judgment was
entered in only the .02 action on September 20, 2015. On
October 1, 2015, the father filed in each action a notice of
appeal to the circuit court. See § 12-12-70(a),
Ala. Code 1975. On October 12, 2015, the juvenile court's
judgment was entered in the .03 action. The father did not
file a notice of appeal from that judgment.
conducting a trial de novo, the circuit court entered a
judgment on October 12, 2016, awarding the father sole
physical custody of the child, setting forth the mother's
scheduled visitation periods, and requiring the mother to pay
child support. The mother filed a postjudgment motion on
November 11, 2016, which the circuit court denied on December
12, 2016. The mother thereafter filed a timely notice of
appeal to this court on January 23, 2017.
appeal, the mother argues that the circuit court's award
of sole physical custody to the father was erroneous and that
the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to
conduct a trial de novo regarding the .03 action because the
father did not file a notice of appeal from the juvenile
court's judgment in that action. In response, the father
contends that the mother has waived her arguments because, he
says, she has failed to cite the record and relevant
supporting authority and has therefore not complied with the
requirements of Rule 28(a)(10), Ala. R. App. P. However,
"[t]he issue of subject-matter jurisdiction is
'"of such magnitude that we take notice of [it] at
any time and do so even ex mero
motu."'" G.W. v. Dale Cty. Dep't
of Human Res., 939 So.2d 931, 934 (Ala. Civ. App.
2006)(quoting Wallace v. Tee Jays Mfg. Co., 689
So.2d 210, 211 (Ala. Civ. App. 1997), quoting in turn
Nunn v. Baker, 518 So.2d 711, 712 (Ala. 1987)). We
must therefore consider whether the circuit court had
subject-matter jurisdiction over the father's appeal in
the .03 action.
outset, we note that the .02 action and the .03 action were
consolidated after the parties submitted a joint motion to
the juvenile court; however, "Alabama law is well
settled that consolidated actions maintain their separate
identities, and separate judgments are to be entered in each
action." Satterwhite v. Rodney Byrd Millenium
Props., Inc., 180 So.3d 890, 898 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015).
Although the juvenile court entered a judgment in each
action, the father filed his notice of appeal in the .03
action before the juvenile court had entered its judgment in
that action. Once the father filed his notice of appeal in
the .03 action, the juvenile court lost subject-matter
jurisdiction over that action during the pendency of the
father's appeal in the circuit court. See Ward v.
Ullery, 412 So.2d 796, 797 (Ala. Civ. App.
1982)("Once an appeal is taken, the trial court loses
jurisdiction to act except in matters entirely collateral to
the appeal."). Because the juvenile court did not have
subject-matter jurisdiction, the October 12, 2015, judgment
that it entered in the .03 action was a nullity. See
Ingram v. Alabama Peace Officers' Standards &
Training Comm'n, 148 So.3d 1089, 1093 (Ala. Civ.
App. 2014)("An order or judgment entered by a trial
court without subject-matter jurisdiction is a
because a valid final judgment had not yet been entered in
the .03 action at the time of the father's appeal, the
circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to conduct a
trial de novo regarding the issues raised in the .03 action.
See Bolden v. Wise Alloys, LLC, 5 So.3d 1287, 1289
(Ala. Civ. App. 2008)("Because the [juvenile
court's] judgment was rendered, but never input into the
[State Judicial Information System], and therefore never
entered, the judgment is a nonfinal judgment and will not
support an appeal."). "'A judgment entered by a
court lacking subject-matter jurisdiction is absolutely void
and will not support an appeal; an appellate court must
dismiss an attempted appeal from such a void
judgment.'" Persons v. Persons, 10 So.3d
610, 613 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008)(quoting Vann v. Cook,
989 So.2d 556, 559 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008)).
therefore dismiss the appeal, albeit with instructions to the
circuit court to vacate its void judgment and to transfer the
[.03 action] back to the [juvenile] court." Rimpsey
Agency, Inc. v. Johnston [Ms. 2150461, Sept. 2, 2016]
___ So.3d ___, ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2016). Once transferred,
the juvenile court will reacquire subject-matter jurisdiction
to enter a final judgment in the .03 action, from which the
parties may appeal. Because we dismiss her appeal, we do ...