Hayle P. Kelley
Elvirita Finley Elvirita Finley
Hayle P. Kelley
Appeals from Jefferson Circuit Court (DR-16-382)
P. Kelley ("the father") appeals from a judgment
entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the circuit
court"), and Elvirita Finley ("the mother")
cross-appeals from that same judgment. We dismiss the appeal
and the cross-appeal.
protracted proceedings over child support and postminority
educational support owed by the father for E.Z.B. ("the
child"), the Jefferson District Court entered a judgment
on June 21, 2016, establishing the arrearage owed by the
father. The father appealed to the circuit court for a trial
de novo. On November 8, 2017, the circuit court purported to
enter a judgment denying the father's request to receive
a credit for the Social Security dependent benefits paid to
the mother on behalf of the child, setting the amount of the
father's arrearage for postminority educational support,
and denying all other requested relief. On November 15, 2017,
the father filed his notice of appeal to this court. On
November 18, 2017, the mother filed a postjudgment motion.
The father's appeal was held in abeyance pending the
denial of the mother's postjudgment motion on January 10,
2018. See Rule 4(a)(5), Ala. R. App. P. On January
26, 2018, the mother filed her notice of cross-appeal.
initially note that neither party raises the issue whether
the circuit court could properly exercise appellate
jurisdiction in order to enter a valid judgment. Our initial
review of the record indicated that, at the time the father
appealed to the circuit court, the district court had not yet
adjudicated a contempt motion filed by the mother on January
29, 2015. Upon noticing this potential jurisdictional defect,
this court asked the parties to file letter briefs on this
point. See D.C.S. v. L.B., 84 So.3d 954, 957 (Ala.
Civ. App. 2011) ("'"[T]his Court is duty bound
to notice ex mero motu the absence of subject-matter
jurisdiction."'" (quoting Baldwin Cty. v.
Bay Minette, 854 So.2d 42, 45 (Ala. 2003), quoting in
turn Stamps v. Jefferson Cty. Bd. of Educ., 642
So.2d 941, 945 n.2 (Ala. 1994))). After reviewing the record
and considering the parties' letter briefs and the
relevant law, we conclude that the district court's
judgment was not a final judgment that would support an
appeal to the circuit court.
Section 12-12-70(a), Ala. Code 1975, provides:
"Any party may appeal from a final judgment of the
district court in a civil case by filing notice of
appeal in the district court, within 14 days from the date of
the judgment or the denial of a posttrial motion, whichever
is later, or, if the appeal is to an appellate court, within
the time prescribed by the Alabama Rules of Appellate
Procedure or the Alabama Rules of Juvenile Procedure where
applicable, together with security for costs as required by
law or rule."
(Emphasis added.) Additionally, § 12-12-71, Ala. Code
1975, provides that, "[e]xcept as provided in Section
12-12-72[, Ala. Code 1975, ] and in subsection (e) of Section
12-15-120[, Ala. Code 1975, ] all appeals from final
judgments of the district court shall be to the
circuit court for trial de novo." (Emphasis added.)
"A judgment is nonfinal if it fails to adjudicate all
the claims between the parties, see Wright v.
Wright, 882 So.2d 361, 363 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003), and
'[a] nonfinal judgment will not support an appeal.'
Dzwonkowski v. Sonitrol of Mobile, Inc., 892 So.2d
354, 363 (Ala. 2004)."
Chappell v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA, 106 So.3d 904,
906 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012). See also Rule 54(b) and
(dc), Ala. R. Civ. P.
Nicke v. Minter, 195 So.3d 274, 278 (Ala. Civ. App.
2015), this court concluded, in part, that, because the trial
court had set the obligor parent's
child-support-arrearage amount but had not adjudicated the
obligee parent's motion to hold the obligor parent in
contempt for failure to pay child support, the trial
court's order was not a final judgment and, thus, this
court did not have jurisdiction over the appeal from the
order entered in that action. Similarly, in the present case,
although the district court established the father's
child-support arrearage, it did not determine whether the
father was in contempt for his failure to pay child support.
Therefore, we conclude that the district court did not enter
a final judgment and, thus, that the circuit court did not
acquire subject-matter jurisdiction over the father's
appeal. Dillard v. Lepore, [Ms. 2160295, July 14,
2017] __ So.3d __, __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017).
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."'" Dillard,
__ So.3d at __ (quoting Persons v. Persons, 10 So.3d
610, 613 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008), quoting in turn Vann v.
Cook, 989 So.2d 556, 559 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008)). Because
the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter
its November 8, 2017, judgment, that judgment is void, and we
must dismiss the father's appeal and the mother's
cross-appeal. Dillard, __ So.3d at __. Accordingly,
the appeal and the cross-appeal are dismissed, albeit with
instructions to the circuit court to set aside ...