Laubach v. Laubach, 117545

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Writing for the CourtKAUGER, J.
Citation2022 OK 78
PartiesMARIA A. LAUBACH, Petitioner/Appellee, v. PAUL W. LAUBACH, Respondent/Appellant.
Docket Number117545,117654
Decision Date27 September 2022

2022 OK 78

MARIA A. LAUBACH, Petitioner/Appellee,
v.

PAUL W. LAUBACH, Respondent/Appellant.

Nos. 117545, 117654

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

September 27, 2022


THIS OPINION HAS NOT BEEN RELEASED FOR PUBLICATION. UNTIL RELEASED, IT IS SUBJECT TO REVISION OR WITHDRAWAL.

ON CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS, DIVISION III Honorable, Ryan D. Reddick, Trial Judge

Eric N. Edwards, Enid, Oklahoma, for Respondent/Appellant.

Craig Box, Julia C. Rieman, Enid, Oklahoma, for Petitioner/Appellee.

KAUGER, J.

¶0 After the appellant, Paul Laubach (father), and the appellee, Maria Laubach (mother) divorced, the mother sought approval from the trial court to move across the state with their children. The father objected. Among the numerous orders issued by the trial court in this cause was a minute order filed on April 17, 2018. After the father's appeal culminated in two consolidated cases, the Court of Civil Appeals dismissed a portion of the appeals when it held that the April 17, 2018, minute order was an appealable order which was appealed out of time. Consequently, it dismissed the portion of the father's appeals which transpired from that order. We granted certiorari for the limited purpose of addressing the appealability of such court minutes, minute orders, minutes, and summary orders. We hold that trial court rulings which include the title court minute, minute order, minute, or summary order are not appealable orders which trigger the time to appeal.

¶1 We granted certiorari for the limited purpose of addressing whether written instruments titled court minute, minute order, minute, or summary order, may ever serve as an appealable order, so as to trigger the time to appeal. We hold that they do not. Consequently, we vacate the Court of Civil Appeals opinion, and remand this cause to the Court of Civil Appeals for proceedings consistent with this opinion. [1]

FACTS

¶2 The petitioner/appellee, Maria A. Laubach (mother) filed for divorce from the respondent/appellant, Paul W. Laubach (father), on March 17, 2016. The parties divided their property by agreement, leaving the issue of custody to be tried on November 14-15, 2016. At the time of the hearing, the mother indicated to the trial court that she intended to relocate from Enid to Edmond after the divorce for employment opportunities. The trial court entered an order awarding the mother custody of the parties' children and set forth the father's visitation.

¶3 However, on May 15, 2017, the mother filed a notice of her intent to relocate with the children from Enid, across the state to Oologah, Oklahoma, because she had purchased a business there. The father filed an objection, and the trial court set the issue for hearing on April 9 and 10, 2018. On April 6, 2018, the father responded to the mother's relocation request by filing a motion to modify custody, arguing that the mother's relocation plan to move to Oologah, three hours away from him, was a substantial and material change adverse to the best interests of the children.

¶4 After a two day hearing, the trial court granted the mother's request to relocate, and denied the father's motion to modify custody. The court filed a minute order on April 17, 2018, which reflected its ruling on the hearing. It is this order we are addressing.

¶5 Subsequently, several other hearings were held, and the trial court entered a multitude of orders. The cause eventually culminated in two appeals: appeal number 117,545 filed on November 21, 2018, concerning whether the trial court erred in denying the father's petition to vacate custody order and previously filed motion for a new trial; and appeal number 117,654, on January 2, 2019, concerning whether to vacate another custody order and another previously filed motion for new trial. We consolidated the appeals on January 9, 2019, and assigned them to the Court of Civil Appeals on October 16, 2019. On October 18, 2021, the Court of Civil Appeals issued an opinion affirming the trial court in part and dismissing a portion of the appeal in part. We granted certiorari on June 27, 2022. [2]

TRIAL COURT RULINGS WHICH INCLUDE THE TITLE "COURT MINUTE," "MINUTE ORDER,""MINUTE," OR "SUMMARY ORDER" ARE NOT APPEALABLE ORDERS WHICH TRIGGER THE TIME TO APPEAL.

¶6 The mother argues that because the trial court's April 17, 2018, minute order was the equivalent of an appealable order, the appellant missed his opportunity to appeal that ruling and that portion of the appeal must be dismissed. The father disagrees.

¶7 For a trial court ruling to trigger the jurisdictional commencement of the time to appeal, it must be a judgment, decree, or appealable order, which has been reduced to a writing in conformance with 12 O.S.Supp. 2007 §696.3. [3] Codified in 1993, this statute requires an appealable order, decree, or judgment to have a caption including the name of the court, the names and designation of the parties, the file number of the case, and title of the instrument. [4] It further requires a statement of disposition, including the relief awarded, signature and title of the court and other matters approved by the court. [5] Additionally, 12 O.S.Supp. 2007 §696.2 provides what shall not constitute a judgment, decree or appealable order. It provides in pertinent part:

D. The filing with the court clerk of a written judgment decree or appealable order, prepared in conformance with Section 696.3 of this title and signed by the court, shall be a jurisdictional prerequisite to the commencement of an appeal. The following shall not constitute a judgment, decree or appealable order: A minute entry; verdict; informal statement of the proceedings and relief awarded, including but not limited to, a letter to a party or parties indicating the ruling or instructions for preparing the judgment, decree or appealable order. [6]

In conjunction with these statutes, Oklahoma Supreme Court Rule 1.21 O.S.Supp. 2021, App. 1, art. II, also provides in pertinent part:

(a) District Court Appeals.
An appeal from the district court may be commenced by filing a petition in error with the Clerk of the Supreme Court within thirty days from the date the judgment, decree, or appealable order prepared in conformance with 12 O.S. § 696.3 was filed with the clerk of the district court. 12 O.S. § 990A.... [7]

¶8 By order, 2021 OK 41, effective July 15, 2021, we amended Rule 1.21 to mirror the statutes, adding language to clarify that a minute, minute order or minute entry, among other informal writings, could not qualify as an appealable order which would trigger the time to commence for filing an appeal. The amendment provides in pertinent part:

...The following shall not constitute a judgment, decree or appealable order: minute orders or minute entries; docket entries or docket minutes; a verdict; an informal statement of the proceedings and relief awarded, including, but not limited to, summary orders or summary minutes, or a letter or other writing to a party or parties indicating the ruling or instructions for preparing the judgment, decree or appealable order. 12 O.S. §696.2.
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