C.A. and M.A.
from Cullman Juvenile Court (JU-17-479.01)
("the mother") appeals from an order of the Cullman
Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") that, among
other things, granted custody of C.D.M. ("the
child") to C.A. and M.A. ("the paternal
grandparents") and ordered the mother to pay child
support. Because we determine that the mother has appealed
from a nonfinal order, and, therefore, that this court has no
jurisdiction, we dismiss the appeal.
and Procedural History
record indicates that the child had been in the custody of
the paternal grandparents since April 2016. On July 27, 2017,
the paternal grandparents filed a dependency petition in the
juvenile court seeking custody of the child. On November 22,
2017, after a trial, the juvenile court entered an order
that, among other things, found the child to be dependent,
granted custody of the child to the paternal grandparents,
and ordered the mother to pay child support. At the end of
the order, the juvenile court stated: "The Court
reserves the issue of the non-payment of support from April
mother filed a "motion for final order" on December
4, 2017, in which she asserted that the reservation of the
issue of retroactive support made the order nonfinal. That
same day, the mother filed a motion seeking to alter, amend,
or vacate the juvenile court's November 22, 2017,
order. The juvenile court denied the mother's
motion to alter, amend, or vacate on December 9, 2017. The
juvenile court did not enter an order addressing the
mother's motion seeking the entry of a final judgment.
The mother has appealed from the November 22, 2017, order.
appeal, the mother challenges the juvenile court's order
finding the child to be dependent, transferring custody to
the paternal grandparents, and awarding child support.
we can address the mother's arguments on appeal, however,
we must determine whether the mother has appealed from a
final judgment, and, thus, whether this court has
jurisdiction to consider the mother's appeal, because
"jurisdictional matters are of such magnitude that we
take notice of them at any time and do so even ex mero
motu." Nunn v. Baker, 518 So.2d
711, 712 (Ala. 1987).
explained above, the juvenile court's November 22, 2017,
order stated: "The Court reserves the issue of the
non-payment of support from April 2016." It is well
settled that "[a]n order is generally not final unless
it disposes of all claims or the rights and liabilities of
all parties." Carlisle v. Carlisle, 768 So.2d
976, 977 (Ala. Civ. App. 2000)(citing Rule 54(b), Ala. R.
Civ. P.; and Ex parte Harris, 506 So.2d 1003, 1004
(Ala. Civ. App. 1987)). "'Generally, an appeal will
lie only from a final judgment, and if there is not a final
judgment then this court is without jurisdiction to hear the
appeal.'" Moore v. Strickland, 54 So.3d
906, 908 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010)(quoting Sexton v.
Sexton, 42 So.3d 1280, 1282 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010)).
"The question of finality of the order may be phrased as
a question of 'something more for the court to do.'
Sexton v. Sexton, 280 Ala. 479, 481, 195 So.2d 531,
533 (1967)." Wesley v. Brandon, 419 So.2d 257,
258 (Ala. Civ. App. 1982). Here, the order expressly
identifies that the issue of retroactive child support has
not been adjudicated.
court has regularly dismissed appeals from judgments that
reserve child-support determinations on the basis that such
judgments are nonfinal. See Lowe v. Lowe, 85 So.3d
1023, 1025 (Ala. Civ. App. 2011); Naylor v. Naylor,
981 So.2d 440, 441 (Ala. Civ. App. 2007); Reid v.
Reid, 844 So.2d 1212, 1213-15 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002); and
Tomlinson v. Tomlinson, 816 So.2d 57, 58 (Ala. Civ.
App. 2001). See also S.A.M. v.
M.H.W., 227 So.3d 1232, 1233-34 (Ala. Civ. App.
2017) (holding that, "[b]ecause the juvenile court's
... order does not resolve the issue of retroactive child
support, the order is not a final judgment and is not capable
of supporting an appeal").
court has also held, however, that it is a
"well-established principle that an adjudication of
dependency and an accompanying custodial placement of a child
in a dependency proceeding is an appealable order."
C.L. v. D.H., 916 So.2d 622, 626 (Ala. Civ. App.
2005). We have also explained that, "[i]f the order
addresses crucial issues that could result in depriving a
parent of the fundamental right to the care and custody of
his or her child, whether immediately or in the future, the
order is an appealable order." D.P. v.
Limestone Cty. Dep't of Human Res., 28 So.3d
759, 764 (Ala. Civ. App. 2009).
J.M.M. v. J.C., 50 So.3d 1076, 1076 (Ala. Civ. App.
2010), a mother appealed from a juvenile court's judgment
finding her child to be dependent and determining that it was
in the child's best interest to remain in the custody of
a relative. In its order, however, the juvenile court
reserved the issue of child support and directed the mother
to file a child-support-income affidavit within 30 days of
the entry of the judgment. Id. at 1077. This court
dismissed the mother's appeal, finding that the juvenile
court's reservation of the issue of the mother's
child-support obligation rendered the judgment nonfinal.
Id. at 1078. Likewise, in T.H. v. Jefferson
County Department of Human Resources, 100 So.3d 583,
585 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012), which involved appeals from
dependency judgments, this court dismissed as nonfinal orders
that failed to establish requested child-support awards.
asked the parties in this case to submit letter briefs
addressing whether the mother appealed from a final judgment,
in light of the language in the order reserving the issue of
the nonpayment of child support. The paternal grandparents
assert in their letter brief that the November 22, 2017,
order is nonfinal. In her letter brief, the mother
acknowledges the lack of a final judgment but asks this court
to hold the appeal in abeyance and remand the case to the
juvenile court with instructions. Neither the paternal