Divorce is not only an expensive legal battle but once that comes with emotional baggage. The emotions and the conditions that come with divorce are further complicated when children are involved. To make matters worse, a situation that is agreed to at the time of divorce, may change several years later, so that one or both of the parties want a modification of the terms.
In Houston County, Skipper v. Skipper addressed the procedural issues of appealing modification orders of child support and custody that may not be final. The husband and wife in this case were divorced in 2010. According to their divorce, they were awarded joint legal custody of their child but only the mother had sole physical custody. The divorce judgment also provided that they could claim the child as a dependent for income-tax purposes in alternating years.
In 2016, the father filed a petition to modify the custody provision and also alleged that the mother had been denying his visitations. The mother responding by seeking to change the visitation schedule, to recalculate the child support amount owed, and to claim the child as her tax dependent for all years, rather than alternate years. The trial court denied the father’s petition for custody but did modify visitation more favorably for him.
The trial court then ordered the father to submit a child support income affidavit within 14 days of the order and determined it would assign an income of a minimum wage earner to the mother for the same purposes. The father appealed.
The general rule for appeals is that they may only be taken from a final judgment. Final judgments address all claims. The issue in this case was that the trial court ordered the father to submit a child support income affidavit which allowed the mother’s claim for child support to remain unresolved.
Because the mother’s claim for child support was not fully resolved by the court, the father could not appeal from the trial court’s judgment. The Court of Civil Appeals dismissed the father’s appeal.
The main takeaway here is that appeals may only be granted where the judgment of the lower court is final. When the court in Skipper asked for further findings regarding the parties’ incomes, the judgment was not final (at least as to child support) and an appeal was not appropriate. The court had no choice but to dismiss the appeal.
If you believe you have a family law issue, you should have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side to ensure you and your family’s rights are protected.
Contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 656-0044 for an attorney with the experience and knowledge that can make all the difference.