Failure to Pay Filing Fee – Counterclaim – Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

Stewart v. Sutton, [Ms. CL-2022-0818, Mar. 31, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2023). The court (Thompson, P.J.; Moore, Edwards, Hanson, and Fridy, JJ., concur) affirms in part and reverses in part the Elmore Circuit Court’s judgment denying the father’s motion to modify and holding him in contempt for failing to pay postsecondary-education expenses as ordered in the divorce judgment, and awarding the mother an attorney’s fee. The court rejects the father’s argument that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to find him in contempt due to the mother’s failure to pay a filing fee in connection with her counterclaim alleging contempt. The court reiterates “[a] trial court may … stay any proceedings on a counterclaim in order to ensure payment of the filing fee…. However, a trial court does not act without jurisdiction if it fails to take such steps before adjudicating a counterclaim …” Ms. *8, quoting Hudson v. Hudson, 178 So. 3d 861, 869 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014).

The court reversed with instructions for the trial court to “articulate the figures it uses to make its calculation in determining the father’s arrearage” in paying post-secondary education expenses. Ms. *3.

Related Documents