from Madison District Court (CS-09-30.03)
THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.
2009, the Madison District Court ("the juvenile
court") entered a judgment adjudicating the paternity of
K.D.K. ("the father") of the minor child born in
2007 of his relationship with M.K.F. ("the mother")
and ordering the father to pay child support. A December 21,
2009, judgment of the juvenile court modified the
father's child-support obligation.
2011, the juvenile court entered another judgment modifying
the father's child-support obligation, determining that
the father owed a child-support arrearage of $11, 349.39, and
awarding the mother an attorney fee of $4, 025. The parties
and the juvenile court refer to that judgment as the
"February 15, 2011," judgment. That judgment was
signed by the juvenile-court judge on February 15, 2011;
however, it was date-stamped as having been filed in the
juvenile-court clerk's office on March 14, 2011. For ease
of reference, in this opinion, we use the same terminology
used by the parties and the juvenile court, and we refer to
that 2011 judgment as the "February 15, 2011,
judgment." In the February 15, 2011, judgment, the
juvenile court found the father to be in contempt for his
failure to pay child support on nine separate occasions. The
juvenile court also ordered that, "[i]n addition to
monthly child support ordered herein, [the father] shall pay
to [the mother] the monthly sum of $150 toward the
satisfaction of the judgment for arrearage as provided
April 28, 2017, the father filed in the juvenile court a
petition seeking to modify his child-support obligation. On
May 15, 2017, the mother answered and opposed the request for
a modification. On that same date, the mother filed a
document that she titled as a "counterclaim for
contempt" in which she alleged that the father owed her
$16, 487.25 from his failure to pay required monthly payments
toward the child-support arrearage established in the
February 15, 2011, judgment. The father filed an answer
opposing the mother's May 15, 2017, counterclaim.
October 19, 2017, the mother sought the permission of the
juvenile court to amend her "answer," i.e., her
counterclaim, to assert another counterclaim seeking a
modification of the father's child-support obligation.
The juvenile court entered an order allowing that amendment.
November 17, 2017, four days before the scheduled ore tenus
hearing, the mother again moved to amend her counterclaim. In
her November 17, 2017, proposed amended counterclaim, the
mother sought to update the amounts that the father allegedly
continued to owe pursuant to the February 15, 2011, judgment,
including the amount of interest that had accrued on the
attorney-fee award in the February 15, 2011, judgment, and
she sought a judgment redetermining the amounts still owed
under the February 15, 2011, judgment. In addition, the
mother sought an award of an attorney fee in this action.
father objected to that proposed, November 17, 2017,
amendment to the mother's counterclaim. On November 21,
2017, the juvenile court entered an order denying the
mother's November 17, 2017, motion to amend.
juvenile court conducted an ore tenus hearing on November 21,
2017. During that ore tenus hearing, the juvenile court ruled
that the mother's only pending counterclaim was her claim
seeking a modification of child support. The juvenile court
disallowed the mother's attempts to present evidence on
the issue of contempt and pertaining to her request for an
29, 2018, the juvenile court entered an order in which it,
among other things, modified the father's child-support
obligation, ordered him to pay $150 each month toward the
arrearage established in the February 15, 2011, judgment,
awarded the mother a judgment of $6, 226.17 for a new
child-support arrearage that had accumulated since the entry
of the February 15, 2011, judgment, and ordered that the
father pay interest on that new child-support
arrearage. In its June 29, 2018, order, the juvenile
court determined that the attorney-fee award established in
the February 15, 2011, judgment "was included in and
made a part of the additional $150 per month to be paid by
the father" toward the satisfaction of that February 15,
2011, judgment. In addition, the juvenile court denied the
parties' claims, asserted during the pendency of this
action, seeking sanctions for various alleged failures to
comply with discovery requests.
mother filed a notice of appeal on July 12, 2018. On November
27, 2018, this court entered an order reinvesting the
juvenile court with jurisdiction to enter a final judgment.
On December 10, 2018, the juvenile court entered an order
determining the interest owed on the child-support arrearage
that had accumulated since the entry of the February 15,
2011, judgment to be $3, 430.20. That order resolved the last
of the pending claims between the parties, and, therefore, it
constituted the final judgment in the action below.
Stockton v. CKPD Dev. Co., 936 So.2d 1065, 1069-70
(Ala. Civ. App. 2005). The appeal was deemed effective upon
the entry of the final judgment. Rule 4(a)(4), Ala. R. App.
P. However, for ease of reference, in this opinion, we refer
to the June 29, 2018, order as "the June 29, 2018,
initial matter, we note that the mother argues on appeal that
the juvenile court erred in considering the father's
child-support-modification claim. The mother cites Hilson
v. Hilson, 598 So.2d 955, 956 (Ala. Civ. App. 1992), for
the proposition that "[a] party in contempt who has
violated a [judgment] of the court is not entitled to be
heard on a petition for modification until he purges
himself" of contempt. However, the mother did not raise
this argument before the juvenile court, and she may not
seek, for the first time on appeal, to hold the juvenile
court in error with regard to an issue she did not raise
before it. Andrews v. Merritt Oil Co., 612 So.2d
409, 410 (Ala. 1992); Sea Calm Shipping Co. v.
Cooks, 565 So.2d 212, 216 (Ala. 1990).
mother argues that the juvenile court erred in dismissing her
counterclaim for contempt. At the November 21, 2017, hearing,
the juvenile court refused to allow the mother to prosecute
her counterclaim alleging contempt. The comments made by the
juvenile-court judge during that hearing indicate that he
made that ruling because, he determined, the mother's May
15, 2017, "counter claim for contempt" did not
contain a specific prayer for relief. Rule 54(c), Ala. R.
Civ. P., provides that, "[e]xcept as to a party against
whom a judgment is entered by default, every final judgment
shall grant the relief to which the party in whose favor it
is rendered is entitled, even if the party has not demanded
such relief in the party's pleadings." This court
has explained the interpretation of Rule 54(c) as follows:
"Under the provision of Rule 54(c) of the Alabama Rules
of Civil Procedure it is the duty of the court to grant
relief to which a party is entitled irrespective of the
request for relief contained in the pleadings. Penny v.
Carden, [356 So.2d 1118 (Ala. 1978)]. See 6
Moore's Federal Practice § 54.62 (1976).
However, Rule 54(c) does not sanction the granting of relief
not requested in the pleadings where it appears that a
party's failure to ask for particular relief has
substantially prejudiced the opposing party. Albermarle
Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 95 S.Ct. 2362, 45
L.Ed.2d 280 (1975); Rental Development Corporation of
America v. Lavery, 304 F.2d 839 (9th Cir. 1962);
Penney v. Carden, Supra. Moreover, if the
relief granted pursuant to Rule 54(c) is not justified by the
proof or is justified by proof which the opposing party has
not had an opportunity to challenge, the relief granted
should not be sustained on appeal. See 10 Wright
& Miller[, ] Federal Practice and Procedure
§ 2662 (1973). Accordingly, logic dictates that in those
situations where an opposing party has no notice, by
pleadings or otherwise, regarding the claim upon which relief
is granted by means of Rule 54(c) and is thereby denied an
opportunity to have challenged or defended against such a
claim, the opposing party has suffered substantial prejudice
and the judgment granting relief must be reversed. See
United States v. Hardy, 368 F.2d 191 (10th Cir.
1966). Indeed, such a rule is fundamental to the essentials
of due process and fair play. Sylvan Beach, Inc. v.
Koch, 140 F.2d 852 (8th Cir. 1944)."
Carden v. Penney, 362 So.2d 266, 268-69 (Ala. Civ.
May 15, 2017, "counter claim for contempt," the
mother alleged that the father was in contempt and asked that
the father be required to demonstrate why the juvenile court
should not hold the father in contempt. The mother specified
the terms of the February 15, 2011, judgment, and she alleged
that the father had failed to pay the child-support arrearage
established in that judgment and had failed to pay the
attorney fee awarded in that judgment. Although the
mother's May 15, 2017, pleading could have been more
artfully drafted, we conclude that it contained a sufficient
request for relief, i.e., that the father be held in contempt
for his failure to comply with the February 15, 2011,
judgment. That pleading clearly put the father on notice that
the mother was seeking to enforce the February 15, 2011,
judgment and to have the father ...