Campbell v. Davison, No. 2070465 (Ala. Civ. App. 8/15/2008), No. 2070465.

CourtAlabama Court of Civil Appeals
Writing for the CourtBryan
PartiesMary Davison Campbell v. Kenny Davison
Decision Date15 August 2008
Docket NumberNo. 2070465.

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Mary Davison Campbell
Kenny Davison
No. 2070465.
Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.
Decided August 15, 2008.

Appeal from DeKalb Circuit Court, (DR-03-20.01).

BRYAN, Judge.

Mary Davison Campbell ("the mother") and Kenny Davison ("the father") married, and two minor children were born of the marriage. The mother and the father divorced in February

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2003. The divorce judgment awarded the mother custody and ordered the father to pay child support in the amount of $540 per month. In October 2005, a juvenile court granted the mother's petition seeking to terminate the father's parental rights regarding their two minor children.

On January 4, 2007, the State of Alabama, on behalf of the mother, petitioned the trial court to require the father to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for his alleged failure to pay his monthly child-support obligation. In its petition, the State alleged that the father had accrued an arrearage totaling $28,776.60. The father answered, denying the material allegations stated in the petition.

The trial court held a hearing on April 11, 2007. The trial court then entered a judgment on May 6, 2007, finding, among other things, the father in arrears in the amount of $16,730 plus $486 in interest as of October 2005. The father and the State both moved the trial court to alter, amend, or vacate its judgment or, in the alternative, to grant a new trial.

The record establishes that all the parties agreed to extend the time for the trial court to rule on the parties'

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postjudgment motions. See Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P. The trial court subsequently granted both parties a new trial. On January 18, 2008, the trial court entered a judgment that, among other things, concluded that the father's obligation to pay child support was extinguished when his parental rights regarding the children were terminated. The mother then timely appealed.

On appeal, the mother argues that the trial court erred by determining that the father's obligation to pay child support was extinguished when his parental rights were terminated. "[W]hen an appellate court is presented with an issue of law, we review the judgment of the trial court as to that issue de novo." Henderson v. Henderson, 978 So. 2d 36, 39 (Ala. Civ. App. 2007) (citing Ex parte Perkins, 646 So. 2d 46 (Ala. 1994)).

The mother presents an issue of first impression. The Child Protection Act ("CPA"), codified at § 26-18-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, which governs the termination of parental rights, does not address the issue of a parent's obligation to pay child support after termination of his or her parental rights. Although Alabama appellate courts have not directly

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addressed the issue, our appellate courts have indicated that a parent is no longer obligated to pay child support after that parent's parental rights have been terminated.

In Ex parte Brooks, 513 So. 2d 614 (1987), overruled on other grounds by Ex parte Beasley, 564 So. 2d 950 (Ala. 1990), a father sought a judgment terminating his parental rights. In reversing this court's affirmance of the judgment granting the termination, the court in Brooks stated: "The Child Protection Act of 1984 ... was not intended as a means for allowing a parent to abandon his child and thereby to avoid his obligation to support the child through the termination of parental rights." Id. at 617 (emphasis added). In C.M. v. D.P., 849 So. 2d 963 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002), this court affirmed a juvenile court's judgment denying a father's petition to terminate his parental rights. In C.M., this court stated: "The supreme court [in Ex parte Brooks] found that there was no clear and convincing evidence indicating that termination would be in the child's best interest, because all future rights to support, parental affiliation, and inheritance would be severed, with the child receiving nothing in return. [Brooks, 513 So. 2d] at 617." 849 So. 2d

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965-66 (emphasis added). The court in C.M. further concluded that "it is not in the child's best interests to be alienated from any future right to financial support, parental affiliation, and inheritance." 849 So. 2d 966 (emphasis added). Accordingly, Brooks and C.M. indicate that a parent is not obligated to pay support upon the termination of his or her parental rights. See also State ex rel. McDaniel v. Miller, 659 So. 2d 640, 642 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995) (reversing the trial court's judgment and rendering a judgment denying two parents' joint petition to terminate a father's parental rights, concluding that the trial court failed to consider that "[t]he child's right to current and future support, including, possibly, payment of a college education, and the child's right of inheritance from the father" would end upon termination); and Ex parte University of South Alabama, 541 So. 2d 535, 538 (Ala. 1989) (stating, in dicta, that "[a] child has this fundamental right to financial support until its majority or death or a legal termination of parental rights," in concluding that a father was obligated to pay medical expenses incurred on the child's behalf). Furthermore, as Judge Moore has recently stated:

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"[T]he termination of parental rights `necessarily precludes the parent from later attempting to reestablish his or her visitation privileges, right to custody, or other parental rights with the child or children in question.' [In re] Grayson, 419 So. 2d [234,] 237 [(Ala. Civ. App. 1982)] (Bradley, J., concurring specially). At the same time, an order terminating parental rights divests the child of his or her right to maintenance and support and inheritance from the natural parent, to association with the natural parent, and other legal rights attendant to the parent-child relationship. See Ex parte Brooks, 513 So. 2d 614 (Ala. 1987)."

J.C. v. State Dep't of Human Res., [Ms. 2060091, Oct. 12, 2007] ___ So. 2d ___, ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2007) (Moore, J., concurring in the result) (emphasis added).1

Other jurisdictions have held that, in certain instances, a parent's obligation to pay child support does not end when his or her parental rights are terminated. See, e.g., Evink v. Evink, 214 Mich. App. 172, 176, 542 N.W.2d 328, 331 (1995); State of Rhode Island v. Fritz, 801 A.2d 679, 685 (R.I. 2002);

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and Adoption of Marlene, 443 Mass. 494, 822 N.E.2d 714 (2005). However, a majority of states have held that the termination of a parent's parental rights extinguishes a parent's duty to support the child. McCabe v. McCabe, 78 P.3d 956, 960 (Okla. 2003). See, e.g., County of Ventura v. Gonzales, 88 Cal. App. 4th 1120, 106 Cal. Rptr. 2d 461 (2001); Ponton v. Tabares, 711 So. 2d 125 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998); Kansas ex rel. Sec'y of Soc. & Rehab. Servs. v. Clear, 248 Kan. 109, 804 P.2d 961 (1991); Nevada v. Vine, 99 Nev. 278, 662 P.2d 295 (1983); Gabriel v. Gabriel, 519 N.W.2d 293 (N.D. 1994); In re Scheehle, 134 Ohio App. 3d 167, 730 N.E.2d 472 (1999); McCabe, supra; Kauffman v. Truett, 771 A.2d 36 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2001); Coffey v. Vasquez, 290 S.C. 348, 350 S.E.2d 396 (Ct. App. 1986); and Commonwealth ex rel. Spotsylvania County Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Fletcher, 38 Va. App. 107 562 S.E.2d 327 (2002), aff'd, 266 Va. 1, 581 S.E.2d 213 (2003).

In concluding that a parent's duty to support his or her child extinguishes upon the termination of parental rights, the South Carolina Court of Appeals has stated:

"The duty of a parent to support his or her minor child is often viewed as correlative to the parent's rights in and to the child. See, e.g., Walker v. Walker, 204 N.C. 210, 167 S.E. 818 (1933);

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59 Am.Jur.2d Parent and Child § 51 n.15 at 139 (1971); 67A C.J.S. Parent & Child § 3 n.29 (1978). Indeed, the term `parental rights,' in the context of termination proceedings, has been construed to include both parental rights and parental obligations. Anguis v. Superior Court In and For Maricopa County, 6 Ariz. App. 68, 429 P.2d 702 (1967). In our view, a parent's obligation to feed, clothe and otherwise support a child, being correlative to the parent's rights in and to the child, does not exist where the parent's reciprocal rights in and to the child have been terminated."

Coffey v. Vasquez, 290 S.C. at 350, 350 S.E.2d at 397-98. We also find instructive the following from the Supreme Court of Kansas:

"The purpose of termination of parental rights is to provide stability to the life of a child who must be removed from the home of a parent. The State's primary goal for all children whose parents' parental rights have been terminated is placement in a permanent family setting. ... The termination of parental rights by the State severs the child's ties with the natural parent. A parent whose parental rights have been terminated is relieved of all duties and obligations to support the child and the burden is placed on the State until the State is legally relieved of the obligation."

Kansas ex rel. Sec'y of Soc. and Rehab. Servs. v. Clear, 248 Kan. at 116, 804 P.2d at 966. Like the State of Kansas, the purpose of our juvenile laws, particularly in termination cases, is to provide children with stability and permanency. See § 26-18-2, Ala. Code 1975; and A.J.H.T. v. K.O.H., [Ms.

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2051035, July 27, 2007] ___ So. 2d ___, ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2007) (Bryan, J., concurring specially, with Thomas, J., joining). Our juvenile code contemplates that a child should have a permanent placement that could include, among other plans, adoption after termination. See § 12-15-62(c), Ala. Code 1975; and § 26-18-8, Ala. Code 1975. To further this goal, a parent's parental relationship with the child must be totally severed.

The dissent contends that a judgment terminating a parent's parental rights that also terminates a parent's obligation to pay child support does not promote a child's stability or permanency. ___ So. 2d at ___ (Moore, J., dissenting). The dissent further states that a child would be protected from harm if...

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