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D.D.P. v. D.M.B.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

February 13, 2015

D.D.P.
v.
D.M.B. et al

Released for Publication September 15, 2015.

Appeal from Shelby Juvenile Court. (JU-09-809.01, JU-09-809.02, and JU-09-809.03), Trial Judge: James R. Kramer, Judge.

For Appellant: Jeffrey Bryan Pino of Jim Pino & Associates, P.C., Pelham.

For Appellee: James V. Green, Jr., Alabaster, for D.M.B.

PITTMAN, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Thomas, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.

OPINION

PITTMAN, Judge.

This appeal arises from a judgment entered in April 2014 by the Shelby Juvenile Court in three dependency actions brought by the Shelby County Department of Human Resources (" DHR" ) and by three other parties concerning a minor child, J.D.B. (" the child" ). In that judgment, the juvenile court, in pertinent part, determined that the child, who apparently had been found in open court to be dependent, " remained a dependent child" ; disposed of the child's custody by awarding custody to the child's father, D.M.B. (" the father" ); specified the visitation rights of the child's mother, D.D.P. (" the mother" ); directed the mother to pay child support to the father; and closed the case to further proceedings. Following the denial of her postjudgment motion to alter, amend, or vacate the judgment, the mother appealed to this court; she asserts (a) that the juvenile court's initial oral determination of the child's dependency violated her dueprocess rights; (b) that the juvenile court's disposition of the child was erroneous; (c) that the juvenile court erred in failing to consider certain custodial factors listed in the Alabama Parent-Child Relationship Protection Act (" the Act" ), Ala. Code 1975, § 30-3-160 et seq.; (d) that the juvenile court erred in determining visitation and child support; and (e) that the juvenile court erred in failing to follow the requirements

Page 2

of Rule 59(g), Ala. R. Civ. P.,[1] by denying her postjudgment motion without holding a hearing as requested in that motion.

The record reveals that the mother and the father were not married at the time of the child's birth in July 2004 but that, in an action brought in Shelby County against the father by the State of Alabama on the relation of the mother, a consent judgment had been entered to the effect that the mother would have custody of the child until July 2009, at which time the parties would have joint custody. In November 2009, DHR filed a dependency petition in the juvenile court as to the child, asserting that the child's parents were unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child; the petition further alleged that the child had been treated at a children's hospital for " multiple bruises to his back and inner thigh" that had " allegedly occurred while he was in the care of the mother and [the child's] stepfather," A.P. A similar dependency petition was also filed regarding the child by the child's paternal grandmother, M.A., and her husband, D.A. The juvenile court initially awarded temporary custody of the child to M.A. and D.A., noting that the father, who was serving a tour of military duty in Iraq at the time, supported their custody request; that court also set an adjudicatory hearing for April 6, 2010.

During the course of the April 6, 2010, hearing, the juvenile court received testimony from two police officers who had interviewed the child and had photographed bruising that had been suffered by the child, as well as testimony from the mother. Immediately after hearing that testimony, however, the juvenile court, over the objection of the mother's first attorney indicating that he had intended to present testimony from other witnesses, stated in open court that it had determined the child to be dependent and directed that further proceedings would concern only the disposition of the child. After one additional witness, a DHR employee, had testified, the juvenile court directed that the hearing be recessed, indicating that further testimony would be heard 10 days later. However, counsel for the mother and the child's stepfather successfully moved for a continuance of that hearing for the purpose of securing witnesses, and they later moved for a continuance of a subsequently scheduled January 2011 hearing because of an attorney scheduling conflict.

After the father's return from his duty in Iraq and his assignment to Fort Benning, Georgia, he filed a dependency petition in the juvenile court in August 2010 as to the child and requested that he be awarded custody; that filing constituted the third dependency petition involving the child. In September 2011, the mother, acting through a second attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the father's petition, asserting that DHR, after an investigation into the abuse and failure-to-protect claims made against the mother and A.P., had determined that those allegations were " not indicated" to be true; she also moved to require DHR to show cause why custody of the child should not be returned to her. The record does not indicate that the juvenile court addressed the mother's motions at any time before the entry of its final judgment in April 2014.

The juvenile court ultimately held another evidentiary hearing in the case in January 2013. At ...


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