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Ex parte Gallant

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

November 3, 2017

Ex parte Matthew Gallant
v.
Rebecca Gallant In re: Matthew Gallant

         (Elmore Circuit Court, DR-09-900071.03)

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         Matthew Gallant ("the father") petitions this court for a writ of mandamus directing the Elmore Circuit Court to dismiss a contempt and modification complaint filed by Rebecca Gallant ("the mother") and to vacate orders it entered in response to the mother's complaint. We deny the father's petition.

         Procedural History

         These parties have previously appeared before this court in Gallant v. Gallant, 184 So.3d 387 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014); Ex parte Gallant, 221 So.3d 1120 (Ala. Civ. App. 2016) ("Gallant II"); and Gallant v. Gallant, [Ms. 2151010, Feb. 17, 2017] ___So. 3d ___(Ala. Civ. App. 2017) ("Gallant III"). In Gallant II, this court summarized the procedural background of the case:

"On August 29, 2009, the trial court entered a judgment in case number DR-09-900071, divorcing the father and [the mother]. That judgment, which incorporated a settlement agreement entered into by the parties, awarded the mother sole physical custody of the parties' five children, subject to the father's right to visitation, awarded the parties joint legal custody of the children, and ordered the father to pay child support and other financial support to the mother. On May 5, 2012, the father filed a contempt petition, which was assigned case number DR-09-900071.01. He later amended his petition to request that the custody provisions of the divorce judgment be modified to award him sole legal and physical custody of the parties' children. In that same action, the mother filed a counterclaim seeking modification of the custody and visitation provisions of the divorce judgment, as well as a finding of contempt against the father. On February 28, 2014, the trial court entered a judgment that, among other things, awarded the mother sole legal and physical custody of the children and modified the visitation rights of the father. This court affirmed that judgment. See Gallant v. Gallant, 184 So.3d 387 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014).
"On June 18, 2014, the father filed a petition alleging that the mother had contemptuously violated various provisions of the 2009 divorce judgment and seeking custody of the children. That petition was assigned case number DR-09-900071.02. On July 28, 2014, the mother filed a counterclaim, which was assigned case number DR-09-900071.03. After a trial, the trial court, on January 19, 2016, denied the father's petition and the mother's counterclaim by rendering a single judgment that was entered in both case number DR-09-900071.02 and case number DR-09-900071.03. Neither party appealed from the judgment entered in those cases.
"On June 21, 2016, the mother filed a contempt and modification complaint under case number DR-900071.03. On August 10, 2016, the father filed a motion to dismiss that contempt and modification complaint. In that motion, the father also moved the trial court to set aside the January 19, 2016, judgment entered in case number DR-09-900071.02 and in case number DR-09-900071.03 for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The trial court, on August 12, 2016, denied the father's motion to dismiss and his motion to set aside by rendering a single order that was entered in both case number DR-09-900071.02 and case number DR-09-900071.03. The father filed his petition for a writ of mandamus on August 30, 2016."

221 So.3d at 1121-22.

         In Gallant II, the father filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the trial court had erred in denying his motion to set aside the January 19, 2016, judgment and that the trial court had erred in denying his motion to dismiss the contempt and modification complaint filed by the mother, in case number DR-09-900071.03, on June 21, 2016. We concluded that the father had filed his motion to set aside the January 19, 2016, judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4), Ala. R. Civ. P., and elected to treat that portion of the father's petition as an appeal that would be, and was, addressed separately in appeal number 2151010. 221 So.3d at 1122. With regard to the father's motion to dismiss, we granted in part and denied in part the father's petition for a writ of mandamus. Specifically, we determined that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the mother's claim regarding visitation and/or modification, and we issued the writ of mandamus to require the trial court to dismiss that claim. 221 So.3d at 1123. We observed that the father's motion to dismiss relied solely on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("the UCCJEA"), Ala. Code 1975, § 30-3B-101 et seq., and, thus, because the mother's claims that the father had contemptuously failed to pay child support, extracurricular fees, and attorney's fees did not involve child-custody matters, we construed the father's motion to dismiss as relating solely to the visitation claims made in the mother's complaint. Id. Accordingly, we denied the father's petition insofar as the mother's claims addressed the father's alleged contemptuous failure to abide by the trial court's earlier judgments related to his obligations to pay child support, extracurricular fees, and attorney's fees. Id. We also denied the father's petition with regard to the mother's claims that the father had contemptuously violated the trial court's visitation orders. Id.

         In Gallant III, which addressed appeal number 2151010, we affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's August 12, 2016, judgment denying the father's motion to set aside the trial court's January 19, 2016, judgment for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Specifically, we decided that, to the extent the trial court's January 19, 2016, judgment spoke to the parties' allegations of contempt resulting from failures to comply with the divorce judgment and modifications thereto, the trial court was within its jurisdiction to enforce its prior judgments; thus, we affirmed the denial of the father's Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., motion insofar as it related to those claims. ___So. 3d at ___. We also determined that, because neither party continued to reside in Alabama and this state could no longer exercise jurisdiction over the parties pursuant to the UCCJEA at the time the trial court's January 19, 2016, judgment was entered, the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the parties' respective visitation- and custody-modification claims. ___So. 3d at ___. Accordingly, we determined that the trial court had erred when it denied the father's Rule 60(b) motion seeking to set aside the trial court's January 19, 2016, judgment addressing those claims insofar as they spoke to a modification of visitation or custody of the children. Id. Accordingly, we reversed the August 12, 2016, judgment in part and remanded the cause for the entry of a judgment consistent with our opinion.

         On remand, the trial-court judge who entered the January 19, 2016, judgment entered an order on February 18, 2017, vacating that judgment insofar as it "relates to issues of custody and/or visitation of the minor children of the parties" and recusing himself from further involvement with the case. The case was reassigned to a different judge, and, on April 19, 2017, the new trial judge entered an order stating that the trial court "has jurisdiction on the contempt issues as described in the .03 case and for the issues of the attorneys fees in the .02 case as the Court of Civil Appeals did not address the same." The trial court then set a hearing on the contempt issues for June 8, 2017. On April 21, 2017, the father filed a "motion to reconsider" with regard to a renewed motion to dismiss and a motion to transfer that had allegedly been filed by him.[1] The mother filed an amended complaint in case number DR-09-900071.03 on May 24, 2017, asserting additional counts of contempt against the father. The father filed an "objection/answer" to the mother's amended contempt complaint on August 2, 2017.

         On August 7, 2017, the father filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with this court. The father filed an amendment to his petition on August 14, 2017, and the mother filed an ...


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