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B.M. v. Jefferson County Dep't of Human Res.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

January 23, 2015

B.M.
v.
Jefferson County Department of Human Resources S.M.
v.
Jefferson County Department of Human Resources

         Editorial Note:

         This Opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the advanced sheet of the Southern Reporter.

          Appeal from Jefferson Juvenile Court. (JU-12-103243.02, JU-12-103245.02, and JU-103246.02). Appeal from Jefferson Juvenile Court. (JU-12-103245.02 and JU-12-103246.02).

         For B.M., Appellant: Jason J. Bonar, Birmingham.

         For S.M., Appellant: Michele M. Alexander, Bessemer.

         For Appellee: Luther Strange, atty. gen., Sharon E. Ficquette, gen. counsel, Elizabeth L. Hendrix, asst. atty. gen., Department of Human Resources.

         THOMAS, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.

          OPINION

Page 158

          THOMAS, Judge.

         On June 24, 2013, the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources (" DHR" ) filed in the Jefferson Juvenile Court separate petitions seeking the termination of the parental rights of B.M. (" the mother" ) to Sc.M. (case no. JU-12-103246.02), Br.M. (case no. JU-12-103245.02), and L.M. (case no. JU-12-103243.02). Sc.M., Br.M., and L.M. are hereinafter referred to collectively as " the children." DHR also sought the termination of the parental rights of the unknown father of L.M. and the parental rights of S.M. (" the father" ), who is the father of Sc.M. and Br.M.

         Sc.M. was born on July 6, 2001. DHR became involved with the family that year when it received reports that the mother and the father, who were unmarried at that time, had engaged in " physical abuse." In 2003 DHR investigated a report that the parents had provided inadequate shelter for Sc.M., that Sc.M. was " dirty," and that the parents had abused illegal substances. Br.M. was born on April 28, 2005. In May 2005 DHR received a report that the parents had abused alcohol and that the father had threatened to kill the mother. The mother subsequently entered into a safety plan, agreeing to participate in a domestic-violence assessment and to seek shelter from the father if necessary for her safety or the safety of Sc.M. or Br.M.; however, on

Page 159

November 24, 2005, the mother and the father married one another. In 2008 DHR received a report that the mother, Sc.M., and Br.M. were often seen walking in downtown traffic and that the mother was not watching Sc.M. or Br.M. In 2009 the mother filed a protection-from-abuse petition against the father in the Calhoun Circuit Court; the mother, Sc.M., and Br.M. then moved to a domestic-abuse shelter in Jefferson County. According to DHR, at that time the mother revealed that she had been severely abused as a child, that she had an eating disorder, that she suffered from " multiple personality disorder," that she " heard voices," and that she regularly " s[aw] dead people." L.M. was born on October 22, 2010; S.M. is not the biological father of L.M.

         On February 22, 2012, the juvenile court found the children dependent and awarded their custody to DHR; the children were placed in foster care. Sc.M. was placed in therapeutic foster care because of his issues with anger and aggression. In 2013 the mother had an automobile accident. Although she denied that she was the driver of the automobile, she was convicted of driving under the influence of drugs (" DUI" ). It is clear that the mother was arrested again, because she was transported to the June 30, 2014, termination trial from the Birmingham city jail. However, the reason for her 2014 incarceration is unclear from the record -- the juvenile court's termination judgments read: " [T]he Mother was incarcerated for violating probation on a previous DUI or [for a] theft charge." The mother admitted that she had failed to appear for a docket call, that she had failed to pay certain fines associated with the DUI conviction, and that she had also pleaded guilty to theft " a few months ago." Regardless of her inability to recall the reason why she was incarcerated at the time of the termination trial, the mother appeared sure that she would be released from incarceration on December 8, 2014, because, she said, her lawyer was appealing " it."

         The juvenile court entered separate judgments on July 9, 2014, terminating the parents' parental rights to the children. On July 17, 2014, the mother filed a postjudgment motion, and, on July 22, 2014, the father filed a postjudgment motion. On July 22, 2014, the mother filed a notice of appeal. On July 24, 2014, the juvenile court denied the mother's and the father's postjudgment motions. The mother's appeal was held in abeyance pending the disposition of the postjudgment motions, and it " [became] effective upon the date of disposition of the last of all such motions" ; thus, the mother's notice of appeal was deemed filed on July 24, 2014. See Rule 4(a)(5), Ala. R. App. P. On August 8, 2014, the father filed a notice of appeal. This court consolidated the appeals ex mero motu.

         The Father's Appeal -- Appeal No. 2130924

          Rule 4(a)(2), (3), and (5), Ala. R. App. P., require the father to have filed his notice of appeal within 14 days of July 24, 2014 -- the date the juvenile court denied his postjudgment motion and the date the mother's notice of appeal was deemed to have been filed under Rule 4(a)(5). See J.H.F. v. P.S.F., 835 So.2d 1024, 1026-27 (Ala.Civ.App. 2002) (noting that the 14-day period under Rule 4(a)(2) ran from the effective date of the notice of appeal). However, the father filed his notice of appeal on August 8, 2014, which was 15 days after July 24, 2014. Accordingly, the father's notice of appeal was untimely; an untimely appeal does not invoke the jurisdiction of this court. Thus, the father's appeal must be dismissed. See Rule 2(a)(1), Ala. R. App. P.; and Holt v. State

Page 160

ex rel. Jones, [Ms. 2130726, Oct. 31, 2014] __ So.3d __, __, ...


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