Can’t Appeal Denial of Contempt

In a relocation case, the mother wasn’t supposed to move the children from Taylor or contiguous counties unless the court ordered otherwise or the parents agreed, in writing filed with the court. Alternatively, the geographic restriction could be lifted if the mother so requested and, at that time, the father no longer lived in the restricted area.

The father took a ten-month teaching job in Odessa, which was outside the restricted area, but maintained a home in Abilene, living in an efficiency apartment while in Odessa. The mother then moved the kids to Colorado. The husband cited the mother for contempt of court. The mother then returned with the kids to Abilene.

The father appealed the trial court’s ruling that the evidence did not support a finding of contempt, but the court of appeals dismissed the appeal, stating cryptically that the father “cannot challenge the trial court’s order that [the mother] was not in contempt.” In re J.R.D., No. 11-12-00074-CV (Tex. App. – Eastland Feb. 27, 2014) (men. op.) (citing Norman v. Norman, 692 S.W.2d 655 (Tex. 1985) (per curiam); In re B.A.C., 144 S.W.3d 8, 10-11 (Tex. App. – Waco 2004, no pet.)).

Norman doesn’t give us a reason, but Wagner v. Warnasch, 295 S.W.2d 890 (Tex. 1956), cited therein, explains that a denial-of-contempt order cannot be appealed because it is not a final judgment:

The order did not finally preclude further proceedings in the court below. It was not a final judgment disposing of the issues before the court. To be final a judgment must determine the rights of the parties and dispose of all the issues involved so that no future action by the court will be necessary in order to settle and determine the entire controversy.

The Court quoted additional authority:

But an order or decree, made for the purpose of carrying a judgment or decree already entered into effect, is not a final judgment or decree, and cannot be appealed from as such.

Wagner (quoting Linn v. Arambould, 55 Tex. 611 (1881)). And that’s where the trail ends.

In any event, orders denying citations for contempt are not appealable because they are not final judgments.

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