Jones v. Jones

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Jones v. Jones
1980 OK 85
612 P.2d 266
Decided: 06/03/1980
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

WILLIAM A. JONES, APPELLANT,
v.
CLETA HELEN JONES, APPELLEE.

CLETA HELEN JONES, PETITIONER,
v.
THE HONORABLE JESS B. CLANTON, JR., ASSOCIATE JUDGE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF CRAIG COUNTY, OKLA., RESPONDENT.

Appeal from District Court, Craig County; Jess B. Clanton, Jr., Trial Judge and Original Proceeding for Writ of Mandamus.

¶0 Husband appealed from decree granting wife a divorce and dividing spousal property. After commencement of appeal, wife sought, in an original proceeding, writ of mandamus directing the trial judge to entertain her post-decree application for alimony during pendency of appeal and counsel fees for additional services.

Causes consolidated; trial court directed to consider wife's application for provisional relief pendente lite.

Pitcher, Castor & Hartley by William H. Castor, Vinita, for appellant and respondent.

Crawford, Crowe & Bainbridge by B. Hayden Crawford, Tulsa, for appellee and petitioner.

OPALA, Justice:

[612 P.2d 267]

¶1 The question before us is whether, in a matrimonial action, the trial court has the authority to entertain wife's post-decree application for alimony and counsel fees after the husband's appeal has been brought here from the divorce decree. We hold that in the post-appeal stage of a matrimonial case in which no alimony was allowed the trial court is nonetheless vested with authority, subject always to our power of reexamination, to consider an application for provisional relief or interim adjustment of adjudicated property or custodial rights, all to remain in effect while the appeal is pending.

¶2 Husband brought an appeal in cause # 54,673, assigning error in granting a divorce to the wife and in the division of spousal assets. Some two months after commencement of appeal, wife brought below a post-decree application for alimony and counsel fees pendente lite. Based on perceived want of "jurisdiction", the trial court declined to take cognizance of the wife's plea. She subsequently sought a writ of mandamus in cause # 55,077 which would direct the trial judge to consider her application. We consolidate the two causes and direct the trial court to entertain and decide the issues raised in wife's application.

¶3 Pre-1969 case law, which uniformly held that trial court's jurisdiction ceased or stood suspended when an appeal had been brought

¶4 Although in the case at bar permanent alimony did not form an issue below, nor is it presented among assignments of error on appeal, the absence of that issue does not limit the range of provisional relief which may be afforded while the appeal remains pending. This is, of course, especially true in a case such as this in which the appeal is brought to review the dissolution of marriage. This is so because the bond of matrimony remains legally unsevered.

¶5 Availability of provisional relief in the form of post-decree "alimony" pendente lite is not necessarily confined to the appeal from granting (or denying) a divorce nor to that in which permanent alimony is among litigable issues on review. Our legal system does not mandate a conceptual approach so restrictive and narrow.

¶6 As a form of provisional relief - granted for the duration of an interspousal appellate contest - "alimony" is a collective term used to describe a variety of monetary stipends for temporary accommodation of spousal rights still in litigation.

¶7 Wife's application here under consideration clearly raises issues "ancillary" to the appeal because they relate to provisional accommodation or adjustment of spousal rights in appellate litigation.

¶8 We think the trial judge's refusal to assume judicial cognizance of wife's application was anchored on an overly narrow concept of authority "ancillary" to the pending appeal.

¶9 Causes consolidated; trial court directed to consider wife's application for relief during pendency of husband's appeal.

¶10 LAVENDER, C.J., IRWIN, V.C.J., and WILLIAMS, HODGES, BARNES, DOOLIN and HARGRAVE, JJ., concur.

¶11 SIMMS, J., concurs in result.

Footnotes:

1 We need not assume original jurisdiction in cause # 55,077 because the relief sought is well within the range of power incident to our jurisdiction in the divorce appeal in cause # 54,673.

2 Egbert v. St. Louis & S.F.R. Co., 50 Okl. 623, 151 P. 228 [1915]; Wagoner Oil & Gas Co. v. Goad, 136 Okl. 29, 275 P. 1036 [1929].

3 Tisdale v. Wheeler Bros. Grain Co., Inc., Okl., 599 P.2d 1104, 1107 [1979].

4 Tisdale v. Wheeler Bros. Grain Co., Inc., supra note 3.

5 Tisdale v. Wheeler Bros. Grain Co., Inc., supra note 3.

6 12 O.S. 1971 §§ 1280 & 1282.

7 Scott v. Scott, 203 Okl. 60, 218 P.2d 373, 376 [1950]; Smyth v. Smyth, 201 Okl. 694, 209 P.2d 709, 714 [1949].

8 Scott v. Scott, supra note 7, 218 P.2d at 376.

9 Tisdale v. Wheeler Bros. Grain Co., Inc., supra note 3 at 1106-1107.

10 In Blair v. District Court of Oklahoma County, Okl., 594 P.2d 367, 369 [1979] we held that ". . . an appeal in a divorce action does not deprive trial courts . . . of judicial power to consider an application for alimony pendente lite concurrent and co-ordinate with this Court, where that issue is ancillary to the matters involved in the appeal." [Emphasis added]

11 Kostachek v. Kostachek, 40 Okl. 744, 124 P. 761 [1912]; Hartshorn v. Hartshorn, 67 Okl. 43, 155 P. 508 [1916].

12 In Tisdale v. Wheeler Bros. Grain Co., Inc., supra note 3 at 1106, we explained thusly the nature of the trial judge's post-appeal power over stay:

"* * * Neither can we find any jurisdictional flaw in that part of the trial court's order dealing with the impoundment of those recovered funds which are likely to be affected by the ultimate decision in this appeal. The power so exercised by the court is clearly incidental and similar in essence to its authority over stay, supersedeas, as well as over temporary adjustment of custodial rights, spousal or child support or other matters to be effective during the pendency of appeal. These matters - all ancillary to the proceedings on review - are now deemed to lie within the jurisdiction which may be exercised by the district court concurrently and coordinately with this court. * * " [Emphasis added]