Michael C. Skipper
Tiffany L. Skipper
from Houston Circuit Court (DR-14-900125.01)
C. Skipper ("the father") appeals from a judgment
of the Houston Circuit Court ("the trial court")
denying his petition to modify a custody judgment. We dismiss
the appeal as having been taken from a nonfinal judgment.
father and Tiffany L. Skipper ("the mother") were
divorced by a judgment entered by the trial court in April
2010 ("the 2010 judgment"). Pursuant to the 2010
judgment, the mother and the father shared joint legal
custody of their minor child ("the child") with the
mother designated as having sole physical
custody. The father was given visitation rights and
was ordered to pay child support. The 2010 judgment provided
that the parents could claim the child as a dependent for
income-tax purposes in alternating years.
27, 2016, the father filed a petition in the trial court
seeking to modify the provision of the 2010 judgment
addressing the physical custody of the child. On July 26,
2016, the father amended his petition by seeking to have the
mother held in contempt for denying him visitation with the
child. On August 29, 2016, the mother filed an answer and a
counterclaim seeking to change the visitation-exchange
location, to bar the father's father from having contact
with the child, to recalculate the amount of child support
owed by the father, and to claim the child as a dependent for
income-tax purposes in all tax years.
February 6, 2017, the trial court held a hearing. In an order
entered on February 10, 2017, the trial court denied the
father's petition for a custody modification but,
nevertheless, amended the previous custody and visitation
provisions of the 2010 judgment. The February 10, 2017, order
also noted that the mother had requested a recalculation of
child support and stated: "Within 14 days father shall
submit a child support income affidavit to the court, minimum
wage shall be imputed to the mother." The record
contains no further submissions of the father or orders of
the court relating to child support. On February 24, 2017,
the father filed a motion he described as a "Rule 59
Motion to Alter, Amend or Vacate, " and he filed an
amendment to the motion on April 10, 2017. The father's
motion was denied on May 4, 2017. The father filed a notice
of appeal on June 9, 2017.
November 6, 2017, after the completion of the record on
appeal, this court issued an order requesting letter briefs
from the parties on the issue whether this appeal was taken
from a final judgment. Specifically, we stated:
"The trial court's order dated February 10, 2017,
notes that the mother requested relief including a
'recalculation of child support' and orders the
father to 'submit a child support income affidavit to the
[trial] court' within 14 days of that order. The order
states that 'minimum wage will be imputed to the
mother.' The record on appeal contains no further orders
addressing that issue. The parties are requested to submit
letter briefs to this court within 7 days addressing whether
the trial court's judgment dated February 10, 2017, is
final and will support an appeal. See, e.g., Tomlinson v.
Tomlinson, 816 So.2d 57 (Ala. Civ. App. 2001)."
November 20, 2017, after obtaining an extension, the father
submitted his letter brief. In his letter brief, the father
argues that, by ordering him to submit a
Statement/Affidavit" ("CS-41 form"), the trial
court effectively modified the child-support obligation,
which, he asserts, is "unjustified in this matter,
" therefore resulting in the trial court's order
being a final adjudication of all matters between the father
and the mother. The wife did not respond to our request for
of jurisdiction are of such importance that a court may
consider them ex mero motu.'" Exum v.
Exum, [Ms. 2150948, March 10, 2017]__ So. 3d__, __ (Ala.
Civ. App. 2017)(quoting Reid v. Reid, 844 So.2d
1212, 1214 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002)).
"An appeal ordinarily lies only from a final judgment.
Ala. Code 1975, § 12-22-2; Bean v. Craig, 557
So.2d 1249, 1253 (Ala. 1990). An order is generally not final
unless it disposes of all claims or the rights or
liabilities of all parties. Ex parte Harris, 506
So.2d 1003, 1004 (Ala. Civ. App. 1987).... The only exception
to this rule of finality is when the trial court directs the
entry of a final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R.
Civ. P. Bean, 557 So.2d at 1253."
Tomlinson v. Tomlinson, 816 So.2d 57, 58 (Ala. Civ.
"The trial court in Tomlinson [v. Tomlinson,
816 So.2d 57 (Ala. Civ. App. 2001), ] ... had modified a
prior custody judgment, had directed the parties to submit
CS-41 forms, and had stated that a child-support award would
be made after submission of those forms. The mother in
Tomlinson, however, appealed before the trial court
had entered any further orders regarding child support.
Because the issue of child support had not been resolved,
this court dismissed the appeal as having been taken from a
nonfinal judgment. 816 So.2d at 58."
Exum, __So. 3d at__ . Similar to Tomlinson,
the trial court in the present case ordered the father to
submit "a child support income affidavit" pursuant
to Rule 32, Ala. R. Jud. Admin. The record contains no
further orders addressing the child-support issue and no
additional submissions by the father. The mother's claim
for child support ...