Appellate Jurisdiction - Motion for Contempt - Interest on Unpaid Child Support Obligations: Clay v. Clay


Clay v. Clay, [Ms. 2160722, Dec. 15, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). This unanimous decision by Judge Donaldson (Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Thomas, and Moore, JJ., concur) dismisses the husband’s appeal from the trial court’s order in a post-judgment proceeding filed by the wife in the parties’ 1982 divorce case.

The wife filed a motion to show cause as to why the husband failed to pay monthly child support obligations ordered in a default judgment rendered against him in 1982. Ms. *2.

The husband argued that the wife’s action was barred by § 6-2-32, Ala. Code 1975, which requires that actions upon a judgment of this state must be commenced within 20 years. Ms. *3. The husband argued that the parties’ youngest child attained the age of majority in June 1995 and therefore the wife’s motion to show cause was barred by the limitations period set out in § 6-2-32. Ibid.

Following an ore tenus hearing, the circuit court ordered that “judgment is entered in favor of the [former wife] and against the [former husband] for $225.00 per month, commencing October 19, 1982.” Ms. *5. The court held that this order did nothing more than to restate the original obligation in the 1982 default judgment and was not a final order on the wife’s contempt motion. Ms. *10. The court noted that the judgment “could be construed as finding that [the former husband] was not in contempt.” Ms. *7. On the other hand, the court observed that the order purported to enter judgment in favor of the former wife for a child support arrearage. Ms. *8. If so construed, the court held “[t]he judgment does not, however, calculate the total amount of child support owed by the former husband with interest.” Ibid.

The court reiterated settled law that in regard to child support “‘to properly calculate interest on an arrearage, one would have to compute the interest due on each installment from its due date.’” Ms. *9-10, quoting Corwin v. Corwin, 29 So. 3d 913, 914 (Ala. Civ. App. 2009). The failure to adjudicate the amount of the former husband’s child support arrearage rendered the judgment non-final, and the court dismissed the appeal. Ms. *10.

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