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A.D.G. v. D.O.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

August 22, 2014

A.D.G.
v.
D.O. and C.O

Released for Publication April 13, 2015.

Appeal from Jefferson Juvenile Court. (JU-13-1111.01). Raymond Chambliss, Trial Judge.

For Appellant: Seth D. Stringer, Birmingham.

THOMPSON, Presiding Judge. Pittman, Thomas, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 784

THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.

A.D.G. (" the mother" ) appeals from a judgment of the Jefferson Juvenile Court (" the juvenile court" ) that, among other things, relieved the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources (" DHR" ) from further supervision of the mother and closed this dependency case by removing the matter from the juvenile court's docket over the objection of the mother's attorney. The judgment, entered on March 26, 2014, left in place the juvenile court's earlier orders finding that the child at issue (" the child" ) was dependent and awarding custody of the child to the child's maternal grandparents, D.O. and C.O. (" the maternal grandparents" ).

The mother appeals on procedural grounds. The record indicates that on May 17, 2013, DHR filed a dependency petition alleging that the mother was using illegal drugs. The child was removed from the mother's home, and custody of the child was awarded to the maternal grandparents, subject to the mother's visitation, which was to be supervised by the maternal grandparents. Over the course of several months, two dispositional hearings were held during which the juvenile court reviewed the mother's progress.

After the December 16, 2013, dispositional hearing, the juvenile court entered an order that, among other things, set another " compliance/dispositional hearing" for March 24, 2014. The juvenile court's December 16, 2013, order, which was completed on a standardized form, directed DHR to supervise the mother's compliance with the terms of the order and to prepare a court report addressing the child's welfare and the mother's compliance with the terms of the order and the terms of her Individual Service Plan. The report was to be made available to the juvenile court and the attorneys for the parties, including the child's guardian ad litem, at least five days before the next scheduled dispositional hearing. We note that the box on the form calling for a " permanency hearing" was not checked.

The March 24, 2014, hearing was held as scheduled. The record on appeal does not contain a transcript of the hearing. On March 26, 2014, the juvenile court entered a standardized-form order stating that a " dispositional hearing" had been held. The box that would indicate that a " permanency hearing" had been held was left blank. In the order, the juvenile court again found that the child was dependent and left the child in the custody of the maternal grandparents. The juvenile court also directed the mother to obtain stable housing and employment, to complete the substance-abuse program in which she was enrolled, to take part in random drug tests, and to complete a parenting-skills class. The juvenile court noted that the mother had recently tested positive for the use of illegal drugs. The

Page 785

juvenile court also ordered the mother to pay $272 a month in child support. It then closed the case to further review, and no other hearing was scheduled.

On April 2, 2014, the mother filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the March 26, 2014, order, asserting that the substance of the hearing and the subsequent order leaving custody of the child with the maternal grandparents and removing the case from the juvenile court's docket indicated that the " dispositional hearing" had actually been conducted as a " permanency hearing." The mother stated that her right to due process had been violated because she had no notice that the March 24, 2014, hearing was to be a permanency hearing. She also asserted that, because the case was closed to further review, she would be unfairly prejudiced in attempts to regain custody of the child. The mother's postjudgment motion was apparently denied by operation of law. On April 23, 2014, the mother timely appealed.[1]

On appeal, the mother contends that, because she was not notified that the hearing of March 24, 2014, was to be a permanency hearing, her right to due process was violated. The only notice she says she received indicated that the March 24, 2014, hearing was to be a dispositional hearing. Therefore, the mother says, the juvenile court's subsequent order relieving DHR of further obligations in the case and closing the case to further review constituted error. Recent opinions of this court have considered this issue in dependency cases and have resolved the matter in favor of the parents of the dependent children. See M.E. ...


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