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C.C v. L.J

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

March 6, 2015

C.C.
v.
L.J.

Appeal from Limestone Juvenile Court (JU-12-154.01)

ON APPLICATION FOR REHEARING AND AFTER REMAND FROM THE ALABAMA SUPREME COURT

PER CURIAM

This court's opinion of January 16, 2015, is withdrawn, and the following is substituted therefor.

C.C. ("the father") appeals from a judgment of the Limestone Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") to the extent that it terminated his parental rights to J.C. ("the child") upon the petition of L.J. ("the mother"). We affirm.

Procedural History

"The record reflects that the mother initiated a civil action against the father in the juvenile court in July 2012, requesting that the juvenile court establish the father's paternity of the child and that that court also terminate the father's parental rights on the basis that the father had purportedly abandoned the child and had failed to visit with or provide for the material needs of the child. The father, initially acting pro se, filed an answer generally denying the allegations of the mother's complaint pertinent to her termination request, but he did not deny paternity, and the juvenile court entered on order in September 2012 determining that the father was indeed the biological father of the child. The father, acting through counsel, then amended his answer and asserted a counterclaim seeking joint legal custody, visitation rights, and a child-support award for the benefit of the mother.
"After an ore tenus hearing, at which the mother, the father, and the mother's mother testified, the juvenile court entered a judgment in March 2013 terminating the father's parental rights, thereby implicitly denying the relief requested by the father in his counterclaim. The father timely appealed from the judgment of the juvenile court, and the judge of that court certified the record as adequate for review by this court pursuant to Rule 28(A)(1)(a), Ala. R. Juv. P."

C.C. v. L.J., [Ms. 2120534, Sept. 6, 2013] ___ So.3d ___, (Ala. Civ. App. 2013).

On appeal, the father first argued that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction over the termination-of-parental-rights case. This court, on original submission, agreed and dismissed the appeal with instructions to the juvenile court to vacate its judgment. ___So. 3d at ___. On the mother's petition for a writ of certiorari, however, the supreme court reversed this court's decision, holding that the juvenile court did have jurisdiction over the case. Ex parte L.J., [Ms. 1121462, Sept. 30, 2014] ___So. 3d ___, (Ala. 2014). The supreme court remanded the cause to this court for us to consider the father's remaining arguments, which had been pretermitted by this court on original submission because of our dismissal of the appeal. ___So. 3d at ___.

Discussion

The father argues that the juvenile court erred in terminating his parental rights because, he says, the judgment is not supported by clear and convincing evidence indicating that he was unable or unwilling to care for the child and because the juvenile court should have found that there existed a viable alternative to terminating his parental rights.

Grounds for Termination

Section 12-15-319, Ala. Code 1975, provides, in pertinent part:

"(a) If the juvenile court finds from clear and convincing evidence, competent, material, and relevant in nature, that the parent[] of a child [is] unable or unwilling to discharge [his or her] responsibilities to and for the child, or that the conduct or condition of the parent[] renders [him or her] unable to properly care for the child and that the conduct or condition is ...

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