FROM THE MARION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 45PR-16-27]
HONORABLE DEANNA SUE LAYTON, JUDGE
Lockwood, for appellant.
Ethredge & Copeland, P.A., by: Johnnie Abbott Copeland
and David L. Ethredge, for appellees.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
Alexander Morse appeals an order filed in July 2016 by the
Marion County Circuit Court that denied his motion to dismiss
appellee Haley Austin's petition to adopt his daughter
EAM. We dismiss the appeal for lack of finality.
and appellee are the unmarried biological parents of EAM, who
was born in April 2014. In March 2016, appellee filed a
petition in Marion County, seeking to adopt EAM without
appellant's consent. Appellee alleged that appellant had
not had any contact with EAM since 2014 and had made only two
payments of child support in 2015. In April 2016, appellant
filed a motion to dismiss the adoption petition, contending
that her petition did not comply with statutory mandates,
that appellee was presently unable to meet the requirements
to obtain an adoption, that appellant had filed a separate
petition in Conway County to register a judgment issued by a
North Carolina court that established his paternity and gave
him visitation rights, and that the Conway County case should
proceed and the adoption case should be dismissed for failure
to state facts on which relief could be granted. Appellee
filed a response in resistance to the motion to dismiss,
asserting that Arkansas statutory law and caselaw permits a
natural parent to adopt her own child; that she had
substantially complied with presenting all the information
required to be in an adoption petition; that she and the
child were residents of Marion County; and that
appellant's separate cause of action had not yet been
served on her.
2016, the trial court entered an order that denied
appellant's motion to dismiss the petition for adoption,
finding venue and jurisdiction to be proper in Marion County.
The order recited that the adoption petition stated facts
upon which relief could be granted and that the allegations
of misstatements of material facts and of misapplication of
the law were not proper bases to dismiss the petition but
were proper for a hearing. Appellant filed a timely notice of
appeal from the order denying dismissal.
2(a)(1) (2016) of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate
Procedure-Civil provides that an appeal may be taken only
from a final judgment or decree entered by the circuit court.
The requirement of a final judgment is the cornerstone of
appellate jurisdiction, and the appellate court reviews only
final orders. Bayird v. Floyd, 2009 Ark. 455, 344
S.W.3d 80. For an order to be final and appealable, it must
dismiss the parties from the court, discharge them from the
action, or conclude their rights to the subject matter in
controversy. Id. Stated another way, for an order to
be final and appealable, the order must put the judge's
directive into execution, ending the litigation or a
separable branch of it. City of Corning v. Cochran,
350 Ark. 12, 84 S.W.3d 439 (2002). By contrast, an order that
contemplates further action by a party or the court is not a
final, appealable order. Blackman v. Glidewell, 2011
Ark. 23. Even though the issue decided might be an important
one, an appeal will be premature if the decision does not,
from a practical standpoint, conclude the merits of the case.
Robinson v. Villines, 2012 Ark. 211.
specifically, an appeal may not be taken from an order
denying a motion to dismiss, with certain exceptions not
applicable here. See Ark. State Claims Comm'n v. Duit
Constr. Co., 2014 Ark. 432, 445 S.W.3d 496; Searcy
Cty. Counsel for Ethical Gov't v. Hinchey, 2011 Ark.
533; Univ. of Ark. for Med. Scis. v. Adams, 354 Ark.
21, 117 S.W.3d 588 (2003); Courtney v. Ward, 2012
Ark.App. 148, 391 S.W.3d 686. Appellant attempts to
characterize this order as one emanating from a "probate
case, " which would be appealable at this point under
Ark. R. App. P.- Civ. 2(a)(12). This, however, is an adoption
case, even if heard in the probate division of circuit court.
According to Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-9-216(a)
(Repl. 2015), "[a]n appeal from any final order or
decree rendered under this subchapter [the Revised Uniform
Adoption Act] may be taken in the manner and time provided
for appeal from a judgment in a civil action." Although
Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) provides a method by
which a circuit court may direct that an immediate appeal be
permitted to proceed, where there is no attempt to comply
with Rule 54(b), the order is not final, and we must dismiss
the appeal. Harrill & Sutter, PLLC v. Farrar,
2011 Ark. 181; Jacobs v. Collison, 2015 Ark.App.
summary, the order on appeal contemplates further action by
the parties and the trial court such that there is no final,
appealable order before us. Consequently, we must dismiss the
appeal without prejudice. See Chitwood v. Chitwood,
2013 Ark. 195; Ford Motor Co. v.
Washington, 2012 Ark. 325; Crafton, Tull, Sparks
& Assocs. v. Ruskin Heights, LLC, 2012 Ark. 56;
Patil v. Hoover, 2012 Ark.App. 341.