If you are involved in a divorce, getting anything done to modify the judgment can be stressful, expensive and takes time. In some cases, both parties fight over issues like the amount of child support, visitation, and legal and physical custody. Sometimes in such complex proceedings small mishaps can have big effects.
This case shows some of those complex issues at work. After the couple divorced, the mother filed a modification asking for the father to pay more child support. The trial court denied the mother’s claim. The father came back and asked for shared legal custody, greater visitation rights, and lower child support payments. It is common that once a modification of a divorce is filed, the other party will file a counter-claim as well.
The trial court decided to appoint a “guardian ad litem” for the minor child. This is a person appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the children. The court partially granted the father’s request by making a visitation schedule and lowering his child support payments. Both the father and mother were not fully satisfied and filed additional motions after the court decision. The court did not rule on the motions.
A few months later, the father filed a new motion asking the court to hold a hearing as to why the children were not attending school. The guardian ad litem also filed a motion asking the court to transfer custody to the father until after the hearing. The trial court issued a ruling giving temporary custody to the father and also ordering a psychological exam for the mother. The court further suspended the father paying child support.
The mother then asked for the new motions to be dismissed. The mother argued that the motions filed in the past that were not ruled on were denied after ninety days. Since those motions were denied, there were no issues left for the court to rule on and the case was closed. The new motions by the father and guardian ad litem would need to be filed as a new case.
The trial court disagreed with the mother. After the hearing it continued giving custody to the father. The mother then appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals to reverse the trial court’s decision.
The Court of Civil Appeals agreed with the mother. The court found that Alabama law required that the old case be closed and that there should have been a new modification case. The new case would have required new payment of filing fees, and since there were no filing fees paid, the decision of the trial court was void.
Tricky legal issues can make all the difference in visitation and child support modifications. It is important to use legal counsel that is experienced and knowledgeable in court procedures and family law.
If you are seeking to modify child support or custody, contact INGRAM LAW LLC, at (205) 656-0044.