ACOA: Money Judgment Must Contain Specific Dollar Amount

This domestic relations court of appeals case from last fall highlights an important rule concerning judgments.

In Hayes v. Otto, 2011 Ark. App. 564 (decided September 28, 2011), a father appeals a circuit court order concerning overdue child support payments owed to him by the child’s mother. The appellant father contended that the circuit court erred in several ways in its ruling computing the amount of overdue child support payments owed.

However, the court of appeals determined that the case was not ripe for appeal due to lack of a final order because the judgment did not specific a specific monetary amount being awarded.

The circuit court’s judgment stated in part the following (bold added):

16. [Appellant’s] obligation for child support for one child would be $112.00 per week based on a net weekly income of $635.00. [Appellee’s] weekly child support obligation is $292.10 based on a net weekly income of $1,954.00. The Court computes the child support for [appellee] by referring to the child support chart and finding that [appellee] should pay $149.00 for the first $1,000.00 per week and then fifteen percent (15%) of $954.00, which is $143.10. The total of this amount is $292.10. The Court deviates from the child support chart because of [appellee’s] paying into a college fund for [the daughter]. The Court deviates in the amount of $91.00 per week, leaving [appellee’s] obligation to be $201.10 per week. The deviation is the exact amount as was affirmed by the Court of Appeals on October 7, 2009, and child support was calculated in the same manner.

17. The Court finds that these amounts should offset with [appellee] paying [appellant] the sum of $89.10 per week in child support for the period of time beginning October 17, 2008, through the end of May 2010. The Court finds that there were 85 weeks during the above stated time period. The total amount [appellee] owes [appellant] is $7,573.50 in child support at the rate of $89.10 per week for the 85 weeks. However, [appellee] had been ordered to pay $78.00 per week in child support during this time period. Assuming [appellee] paid child support to [appellant] from October 17, 2008, through May 2010, the total of her payments shall be offset against the $7,573.50.

18. [Appellee] shall make arrangements to satisfy the end figure by the end of 2010.

Citing Hernandez v. Hernandez, 371 Ark. 323, 265 S.W.3d 746 (2007), the court of appeals noted that a money judgment is required to contain a specific dollar amount in order to be executed.  If a judgment only sets out a formula for determining the amount by which a judgment may be calculated, then it is not a final order.

Because there was not a final order, the appeal was dismissed without prejudice.

Arkansas Judiciary link (pdf).