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J.L. v. Morgan County Dep't of Human Res.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

April 24, 2015

J.L.
v.
Morgan County Department of Human Resources

          Appeal from Morgan Juvenile Court. (JU-13-636.02 and JU-13-637.02).

         For Appellant: George W. Miller, Hartselle.

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

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

          OPINION

Page 571

          THOMAS, Judge.

         J.L. (" the mother" ) appeals the judgments of the Morgan Juvenile Court terminating her parental rights to W.A.G. and J.L.G. (" the children" ). The whereabouts of W.G. (" the father" ) are unknown. The mother's sole issue on appeal is whether the juvenile court's admitted failure to comply with certain requirements of § 12-15-320(a), Ala. Code 1975, renders the judgments void for lack of jurisdiction. Section 12-15-320(a) provides, in its entirety:

" (a) Termination of parental rights cases shall be given priority over other cases. The trial on the petition for termination of parental rights shall be completed within 90 days after service of process has been perfected. The trial court judge shall enter a final order within 30 days of the completion of the trial."

          We use a de novo standard of review because the issue on appeal involves pure questions of law. See Espinoza v. Rudolph, 46 So.3d 403, 412 (Ala. 2010).

         On October 10, 2013, the juvenile court awarded temporary custody of the children to the Morgan County Department of Human Resources (" DHR" ).[1] After a hearing on February 18, 2014, the juvenile court adjudicated the children dependent and awarded DHR permanent custody of the children. The children were placed in foster care.

         On May 13, 2014, DHR filed petitions seeking the termination of the mother's parental rights.[2] The mother was served on May 30, 2014. A termination-of-parental-rights trial was held on September 24, 2014. On November 14, 2014, 51 days later, the juvenile court entered judgments terminating the mother's parental rights to the children. Both judgments read, in pertinent part:

" The Court acknowledges that more than 30 days has elapsed since the conclusion of the testimony and [the court's] taking the matter under advisement. The Court of Civil Appeals has held that this is a procedural issue and does not prevent the entry of an order after said 30 days unless the same impairs the ability to appeal any decision rendered in this matter. (M.H. v. Cleburne County [Department of Human Resources, [Ms. 2130232, July 11, 2014] 158 So.3d 471, 478 (Ala.Civ.App. 2014)]). The Court finds the appeal of this matter has not been affected by the delay in the entry of this order."

         On November 20, 2014, the mother filed motions to alter, amend, or vacate the judgments, which were denied on November 21, 2014; that same day the mother filed a notice of appeal, which listed both case numbers.

          Lack of subject-matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time by the parties or by this court ex mero motu, see Burgess v. Burgess,99 So.3d 1237, 1239 (Ala.Civ.App. 2012); however, we do not agree with the mother that the juvenile court's admitted ...


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