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S.N.W. v. M.D.F.H.

Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama

May 17, 2013

S.N.W.
v.
M.D.F.H.

Page 1226

John M. Mastin, Albertville, for appellant.

J. Thomas Conwell, Jr., of Conwell & Conwell, LLC, Huntsville, for appellee.

MOORE, Judge.

S.N.W. (" the father" ) appeals from a judgment of the Marshall Juvenile Court (" the juvenile court" ) terminating his parental rights to D.W. (" the child" ).

Procedural History

V.W.H., the child's stepfather, filed a petition in the Marshall Probate Court to adopt the child. After receiving an interlocutory order of adoption, the stepfather and M.D.F.H. (" the mother" ) filed a motion to transfer the adoption proceedings to the juvenile court for the purposes of obtaining termination of the parental rights of the father to the child. The mother then filed a petition to terminate the father's parental rights, and the father answered the petition on February 22, 2012, and did not object to the motion to transfer or otherwise contest the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. After a trial, the juvenile court entered a judgment on October 2, 2012, terminating the father's parental rights. On October 10, 2012, the

Page 1227

father filed a postjudgment motion. The juvenile court purported to enter an order on October 25, 2012, denying that motion; however, the motion had been denied by operation of law on October 24, 2012. See Rule 1(B), Ala. R. Juv. P. On October 29, 2012, the father filed his notice of appeal.

Facts

At the trial, the parties stipulated that the stepfather had filed a petition to adopt the child in the Marshall Probate Court and that an interlocutory order for adoption had been entered. The parties also stipulated that, on or about January 13, 2002, the father stabbed the mother in the presence of the child at a visitation exchange in Jackson County. They further stipulated that the mother had suffered severe trauma as a result of her injuries and had incurred medical expenses in excess of $79,000 as a result of that incident. The parties stipulated further that the father had been arrested on charges of attempted murder and first-degree domestic violence, but had subsequently been convicted of only first-degree domestic violence on May 15, 2002, and had been sentenced to 20 years in prison. The parties also stipulated that, at the time of the trial, the father was serving that prison sentence and was incarcerated at the Decatur Work Release Center. The parties stipulated further that the father had not had any contact with the child since the stabbing incident and had not paid any child support since the date of his sentencing in May 2002.

The mother testified that, since the stabbing incident, she had had custody of the child, who was 12 years old at the time of the trial. She testified that the child was progressing normally as a student and had made mostly A's and B's her entire life.

The mother testified that the child does not know the father. She testified further that she and the stepfather have been together since 2004, that she is a phlebotomist, and that the stepfather owns a moving business. She testified that, if the stepfather were allowed to adopt the child, the child could be covered by the stepfather's insurance and could receive college-tuition assistance due to the stepfather's status as a veteran. The mother testified further that, regardless of whether the stepfather were allowed to adopt the child, he would continue to provide for the child as he had done for the previous eight years. She later testified that the child has insurance through the stepfather and that they have a savings account for the child's college tuition.

The mother testified that the father had had a parole hearing two or three years before the trial and that he had been denied parole. She testified that she had not been notified since then that he was up for parole again. She also testified that she had not received any information from the father about whether he was earning any income at the work-release center. She testified that she previously had had to take the father to court to get him to pay child support and that he or his mother had paid support for about four months before he was sentenced. She testified that the father's child-support obligation had been suspended once he was sentenced. She testified that, at the time of the stabbing incident, the parties had been going through a divorce.

The stepfather testified that he had been with the mother for eight years and that, during that time, the child had resided with him and the mother and he had supported the child. He testified that the child is well-rounded and wants to go to college. He testified that he did not know of any contact the child had had with the father or any of the father's ...


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