R.L. and A.L.
from Geneva Juvenile Court (JU-11-378.02)
("the mother") appeals from a judgment of the
Geneva Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court")
declining to transfer custody of her child, S.A.B. ("the
child"), to her from R.L. and A.L. ("the
custodians") and finding the mother in contempt. We
dismiss the mother's appeal.
24, 2018, the mother filed a petition to modify custody of
the child. She asserted, among other things, that the
custodians had been awarded custody of the child on February
17, 2012, and that there had been a material change of
circumstances such that the mother should be awarded custody
of the child. The mother attached to her petition an order of
the juvenile court dated February 18, 2014, indicating that
the juvenile court had previously adjudicated the child
dependent on February 17, 2012, pursuant to a dependency
petition that had been filed by the custodians and that the
juvenile court had awarded custody of the child to the
custodians at that time. In its February 18, 2014, order, the
juvenile court denied a previous petition to modify custody
of the child that had been filed by the mother. The mother
also attached to her petition a July 21, 2014, order of the
juvenile court awarding the mother specified visitation with
custodians filed a response to the mother's modification
petition on June 7, 2018. On August 22, 2018, the custodians
filed an amended response to the mother's modification
petition. That amended response also included a
counterpetition seeking a finding of contempt against the
mother for her failure to pay child support as
"previously ordered," enforcement of the
mother's child-support obligation, and an order requiring
the mother to return the child following her visitation with
the child. The custodians filed a second amended response to
the mother's petition on August 27, 2018, correcting
certain dates referenced in the first amended response.
was conducted on October 30, 2018. On November 15, 2018, the
juvenile court entered a judgment finding that the mother had
failed to meet the standard for a modification of custody
outlined in Ex parte McLendon, 455 So.2d 863 (Ala.
1984), and denying the mother's petition for a
modification of custody. With regard to the custodians'
counterpetition, the juvenile court stated:
"With regard to the contempt [p]etition, the
counterclaim by the [custodians], the Court finds that there
is sufficient evidence to find that the mother ... has failed
to provide child support as ordered and she is employed and
is able to provide support as ordered. The Court also finds
that the mother has also violated the visitation order in
this case. An Income Withholding Order shall be issued in
this case if one has not been entered and the mother ...
shall pay a purge for contempt in the amount [of] $500 by
December 13, 2018, or appear for a hearing at 9:00 a.m. on
December 13, 2018. Failure to appear or pay may result in the
Court placing the mother ... in the Geneva County Jail for
mother filed her notice of appeal to this court on November
27, 2018. This court issued an order calling for letter
briefs from the parties on the issue of the finality of the
juvenile court's November 15, 2018, judgment.
"Although neither party has raised the issue of this
court's jurisdiction over this appeal, we note that
'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). The question whether a judgment is final is a
jurisdictional question, and the reviewing court, on a
determination that the judgment is not final, has a duty to
dismiss the case. See Jim Walter Homes, Inc. v.
Holman, 373 So.2d 869, 871 (Ala. Civ. App. 1979)."
Hubbard v. Hubbard, 935 So.2d 1191, 1192 (Ala. Civ.
Wilkerson v. Wilkerson, 868 So.2d 1119, 1120 (Ala.
Civ. App. 2003), this court considered a case in which the
father had filed a petition for a modification of his
child-support obligation, the mother had answered that
petition, and the State of Alabama had intervened and filed,
on behalf of the mother, a second answer and a petition for
contempt against the father, alleging that he was in arrears
on his child-support obligation. Following an ore tenus
hearing, the circuit court denied the father's petition
to modify his child-support obligation, and, after his
purported postjudgment motion was denied, the father appealed
to this court. Id. This court determined that the
father's appeal was "from a nonfinal judgment
because the [circuit] court had failed to adjudicate the
petition for contempt," and we therefore dismissed the
appeal. Id. at 1120. Following our dismissal of the
father's appeal, the circuit court entered a judgment
finding the father in contempt for failing to pay child
support and entered a separate order setting the matter for a
hearing to determine a payment schedule to satisfy the
father's child-support arrearage. Id. at 1120.
The father filed a second notice of appeal to this court.
Id. This court dismissed the father's second
appeal, concluding that, because the circuit court's
judgment did not state the amount of the arrearage owed by
the father, not all the rights and liabilities of the parties
had been determined and, thus, the judgment was nonfinal.
Id. at 1121.
Wilkerson, the juvenile court's judgment in the
present case finds the mother in contempt for failing to pay
child support but does not state the amount of the
mother's child-support arrearage. Thus, the juvenile
court's judgment is nonfinal and will not support the
mother's appeal. See Wilkerson, 868 So.2d at
1121; and D.M.P.C.P. v. T.J.C., 91 So.3d 75, 76-77
(Ala. Civ. App. 2012) (holding that circuit court's
failure to adjudicate amount of child-support arrearage after
finding father in arrears in payment of pendente lite child