Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
In Re the Marriage of: DANA R. BOOKER and JAMES D. BOOKER,
JAMES D. BOOKER, Respondent-Appellant. DANA R. BOOKER, Petitioner-Respondent,
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CRAWFORD COUNTY Honorable Kelly W.
Parker, Circuit Judge
JEFFREY W. BATES, P.J.
Booker (Husband) appeals from a judgment of contempt and
order of commitment for failing to make payments to Dana
Booker (Wife) as required by the parties' October 2012
dissolution decree (the decree). For reasons that follow, we
conclude this case is moot and dismiss the appeal.
decree ordered Husband to make certain payments and comply
with other terms within 180 days. Husband did not do so. In
mid-May 2013, Wife filed a motion for contempt for failure to
perform the terms of the decree. In August 2015, the court
conducted a hearing on the contempt motion and received
testimony from both parties.
September 9, 2015, the trial court filed its judgment of
contempt and order of commitment (the contempt judgment). The
contempt judgment contained a specific finding that Husband
had the present ability to satisfy the terms of the
decree. The court determined that Husband was in
contempt of the decree, but the order of commitment was
stayed to allow Husband to purge himself of the contempt by
paying the sum of $125, 252.59 by November 10,
2015. The court further ordered:
If [Husband] fails to do so, he shall report to the Crawford
County Jail at 9:00 a.m. on November 10, 2015 where he is
ordered committed until such time as he shall purge his
contempt as set forth herein. If [Husband] fails to report, a
writ of body attachment shall be issued without further
notice to [Husband]. [He] shall remain in the Crawford County
Jail until he pays $125, 252.59 to [Wife]. [Husband] may
purge his contempt herein by other suitable arrangement with
[Wife] approved by the court.
failed to pay the first sum by November 10, 2015 and a
hearing was held that same day. The court ordered Husband
committed to the Crawford County Jail until such time as he
purged himself of his contempt. The court also set bond at
$125, 252.59, the amount he should have paid by November 10,
2015. Husband was incarcerated as of that date. He filed his
notice of appeal from the contempt judgment on November 12,
December 4, 2015, Husband filed a "Motion to Modify
Excessive Bond Conditions" (motion to modify) with the
trial court. Therein, Husband requested his "release
from incarceration[, ]" provided he comply with several
proposed conditions "for purposes of satisfying [the
contempt judgment.]" On December 7, 2015, the court
granted Husband's motion to modify by docket entry. The
court ordered that Husband be released from incarceration
"on condition that [Husband] fully comply with all
conditions and agreements set forth in his [motion to
modify.]" The docket entry specified:
The court orders the Circuit Clerk to pay out the $5, 000.00
posted by [Husband] to [Wife] and her attorney. As further
condition [Husband] has agreed that paragraph 17 of the
[motion to modify] be amended to require [Husband] to cause
to be sold the real estate located at 3958 Hwy. 19, Cuba, MO.
[Husband] shall pay over to [Wife] any sums realized by the
sale of said real estate. As a further condition of the stay
herein, the court orders [Husband] to cause a wage
withholding to be in effect in accordance with paragraph 25A,
B, and C [concerning payments on real estate until sold and
on a loan from his pension plan] of his [motion to modify].
Qualified Domestic Relations Order concerning [Husband's
401(a)] is signed and filed this date.
was released from incarceration December 7, 2015. Subsequent
docket entries list payments and compliance with the
conditions as ordered in the above docket entry.
Husband's continued prosecution of this appeal followed.
three points for decision, Husband challenges certain
findings made by the trial court in the contempt judgment.
Wife argues, inter alia, the appeal is moot because
Husband is currently making the payments he proposed and
purging himself of contempt. We agree with Wife that this
appeal is moot.
appeal is moot when the question presented for determination
would not have any practical effect upon an existing
controversy. State ex rel. Reed v. Reardon, 41
S.W.3d 470, 473 (Mo. banc 2001). In deciding whether a case
is moot, an appellate court is allowed to consider subsequent
events and matters outside the record. Reardon, 41
S.W.3d at 473; Medlin v. RLC., Inc., 194 S.W.3d 926,
930 (Mo. App. 2006).
a general rule, when a party voluntarily pays a judgment, the
party may not appeal from that judgment." In Re
Bell, 481 S.W.3d 855, 867 (Mo. App. 2016); see
Braveheart Real Estate Co. v. Peters, 157 S.W.3d 231,
233-34 (Mo. App. 2004) (voluntary compliance effectively
concedes the correctness of the judgment, thereby rendering
the appeal moot). This general rule applies to a contempt
judgment. In Mozingo v. Mozingo, 779 S.W.2d 284 (Mo.
App. 1989), the husband was found in contempt for failure to
comply with a dissolution decree. "He was committed to
jail, but was later released, and complied with the decree.
On his complying with the court's order the judgment
finding him in contempt became moot and is unappealable as he
had purged himself of contempt." Id. at 285. As
noted in Hamilton v. Hamilton, 661 S.W.2d 82 (Mo.
App. 1983), the submission of an approved payment plan to
purge a party of contempt also renders an appeal from a
contempt judgment moot. Id. at 83.
alternative provided in the contempt judgment for Husband to
purge himself was "by other suitable arrangement with
[Wife] approved by the court." At Husband's request,
the court modified the bond conditions to allow Husband to
purge himself of contempt. Subsequent docket entries
demonstrate that Husband has been making payments and
complying with the conditions he proposed. Because Husband is
voluntarily satisfying the contempt judgment and purging
himself of contempt, his appeal from the contempt judgment is
moot. See Zweifel v. Zweifel, 431 S.W.3d 559, 560-61
(Mo. App. 2014)(because husband purged himself of the
contempt by complying with the contempt judgment, that
judgment is "not appealable"); STL Capital
Mgmt., LLC v. Brda, 207 S.W.3d 649, 652 (Mo. App. 2006)
(because appellants complied with the contempt judgment,
their appeal was moot); Vinson v. Vinson, 191 S.W.3d
85, 87 (Mo. App. 2006) (because wife complied with the
contempt judgment, her appeal was moot); Lieurance v.
Lieurance, 111 S.W.3d 445, 446 (Mo. App. 2003) (party
purging himself of contempt by complying with the court's
order makes "the case moot and unappealable");
Brock v. Brock, 936 S.W.2d 882, 888-89 (Mo. App.
1997) (although wife was ...