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Hossley v. Hossley

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

May 18, 2018

Nathian Hossley
v.
Sarah Hossley

          Appeal from Baldwin Circuit Court (DR-15-900431.02)

          DONALDSON, Judge.

         Nathian Hossley ("the former husband") appeals from a judgment of the Baldwin Circuit Court ("the trial court") entered in postdivorce proceedings between himself and Sarah Hossley ("the former wife"). The judgment was entered in one of two consolidated cases. For the reasons discussed herein, we dismiss the appeal as having been taken from a nonfinal judgment.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On November 16, 2015, the parties entered into a written agreement settling their divorce proceedings; that agreement was incorporated into a judgment of the trial court in case no. DR-15-900431.01 ("the divorce judgment"). Among other things, the former husband was ordered to pay $2, 000 per month in child support for one of the parties' minor children, to be responsible for the children's current (and future) college-education expenses, and to pay $4, 500 per month in periodic alimony to the former wife.[1]

         On June 10, 2016, the former husband filed a petition in the trial court seeking, among other things, to modify his alimony and child-support obligations in the divorce judgment. The former husband's petition to modify was docketed as case no. DR-15-900431.02 ("the .02 action").

          The former wife filed a single pleading that encompassed an answer denying the former husband's allegations in his petition and a counterpetition for contempt. The former wife's pleading was docketed by the trial-court clerk as case no. DR-15-900431.03 ("the .03 action"). In her pleading, the former wife asserted that the former husband had, among other things, refused to pay alimony, child support, and college expenses for the oldest child since the entry of the divorce judgment and asked that the former husband be incarcerated until he posted a $20, 000 cash bond payable to the former wife.

         On September 9, 2016, the former wife filed a motion seeking to consolidate the .02 action and the .03 action for trial; that motion was granted by the entry of the following order of the trial court: "MOTION FOR CONSOLIDATION filed by [the former wife] is hereby GRANTED. Case reset to January 6, 2017 ...." The order of consolidation did not direct the dismissal of either the .02 action or the .03 action, and the record indicates that both the .02 action and the .03 action remained pending after the order of consolidation.

         On April 10, 2017, the trial court held a trial on the former husband's and the former wife's petitions. The former husband failed to appear at the trial, but he was represented by counsel who was present. Counsel for the former wife asked the trial court to dismiss the former husband's petition, based on his failure to appear and prosecute his case. The trial court orally indicated that it would grant that motion, without objection from the former husband's counsel. Counsel for the former wife proceeded to take testimony from the former wife on her petition for contempt.

         The former wife testified that she and the former husband had entered into a settlement agreement in November 2015 in which the former husband had agreed, among other things, that he would pay $4, 500 per month in alimony, $2, 000 per month in child support, and college-tuition expenses for both children, only one of whom was enrolled in college at the time the parties entered into the agreement. The former husband had also agreed to direct that $700 of his monthly military-retirement funds be made payable to the former wife and to pay all debts associated with a construction business owned by the parties. The former husband agreed to quitclaim his interest in a condominium shared by the parties and to bring the mortgage on that property current by December 1, 2015. The former husband also agreed to waive any right to the former wife's $150, 000 equity that was being held in escrow from the sale of a Baton Rouge home.

         The former wife testified that, although the former husband had paid her a total of $29, 000 since the entry of the divorce judgment, he had refused to comply with all of the provisions of the settlement agreement outlined above and had not paid the required amount of child support. The former wife also testified that the former husband had forged her name to certain documents that allowed the $150, 000 escrow funds to be used to satisfy his financial obligations in a criminal case.

         The former wife testified that the former husband had also received $130, 000 from a Louisiana land trust that should have been paid to her, that he had received an insurance-proceeds check for $3, 000, and that he had received $2, 000 from their real-estate agent's escrow account. The former wife testified that the former husband had also received $50, 000 in proceeds in settlement of claims related to an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

         The former wife testified that the former husband was currently driving a 2015 Range Rover automobile and that he had purchased a Porsche automobile in March 2017 -- the month before the trial. According to the former wife, the former husband had "literally lived inside the casinos" in Gulfport, Mississippi, since 2014. The former wife testified that the former husband had received (or had wrongfully taken) approximately $490, 000 since the entry of the divorce judgment but had paid her only $29, 000. The former wife testified:

"[Counsel for the former wife]: Are you seeking --are you asking the court to enter an order establishing an amount of child support that your husband ...

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