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Gallant v. Gallant

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

June 29, 2018

Matthew Gallant
v.
Rebecca Gallant

          Appeal from Elmore Circuit Court (DR-09-900071.03)

          MOORE, Judge.

         Matthew Gallant ("the father") appeals from a judgment of the Elmore Circuit Court ("the trial court") finding him in contempt of a previous judgment divorcing him from Rebecca Gallant ("the mother") and awarding the mother expenses and fees. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         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"); Gallant v. Gallant, 229 So.3d 797 (Ala. Civ. App. 2017) ("Gallant III"); and Ex parte Gallant, [Ms. 2160869, Nov. 3, 2017] So.3d (Ala. Civ. App. 2017) ("Gallant IV"). In Gallant IV, 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.'

"[Gallant II, ] 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. 229 So.3d at 802. 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. 229 So.3d at 801-02. 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."

__ So.3d at __.

         In response to a motion filed by the mother, the case was reassigned to a different judge. On March 8, 2017, the father filed a "renewed motion to dismiss and/or motion to transfer." On April 19, 2017, the trial court entered an order stating that it "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; that hearing was ultimately reset for August 10, 2017. On April 21, 2017, the father filed a "motion to reconsider" with regard to his renewed motion to dismiss or to transfer the case. 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 complaint on August 2, 2017.

         On August 7, 2017, the mother filed a motion, again seeking to amend her complaint. On that same date, the father filed in the trial court a response to the mother's motion to amend her complaint and a "renewed motion to stay, continue, or transfer." Also on August 7, 2017, the father filed the petition for a writ of mandamus that was at issue in Gallant IV.

         On August 8, 2017, the trial court entered an order granting the mother's motion to amend her complaint and a separate order denying the father's motion to stay. The mother filed a motion seeking fees and expenses on August 9, 2017. A hearing was held on August 10, 2017. On that same date, the father filed an amended motion to reconsider regarding his April 21, 2017, renewed motion to dismiss or to transfer the case. The trial court entered an order on that same date, denying the father's amended motion to reconsider. Also on August 10, 2017, the trial court entered a judgment on the mother's complaint for contempt, finding the father in contempt for his failure to pay child support, his failure to pay his portion of extracurricular activities and fees, his failure to pay his portion for one of the children's braces, and his failure to pay attorney's fees that had been awarded in the divorce judgment. The trial court directed, among other things, that the father be taken into custody and held pending the payment of $24, 182.60, the total of the amounts for which the father was in arrears for his contemptuous behavior as well as an amount for fees and expenses, as requested by the mother. The father filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the judgment on August 14, 2017. On September 5, 2017, the mother filed a response to the father's postjudgment motion. The trial court entered an order on September 27, 2017, denying the father's postjudgment motion. The father filed his notice of appeal to this court on October 20, 2017.

         On November 3, 2017, this court released its opinion denying the father's petition for a writ of mandamus in Gallant IV. We concluded that the father's petition was untimely with regard to certain issues and that other issues ...


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