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C.P.M. v. Shelby County Department of Human Resources

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

June 19, 2015

C.P.M.
v.
Shelby County Department of Human Resources; P.D.M.
v.
Shelby County Department of Human Resources

          Appeals from Shelby Juvenile Court. (JU-10-596.08).

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

          OPINION

Page 462

          THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.

         C.P.M. (" the mother" ) and P.D.M. (" the father" ) each appeal from the judgment of the Shelby Juvenile Court (" the juvenile court" ) terminating their parental rights to their child (" the child" ).

         The record indicates the following. The mother and the father were not married when the child was born in the fall of 2010; however, there is no dispute regarding the father's paternity of the child. The Shelby County Department of Human Resources (" DHR" ), which had been involved with the mother and the father earlier,[1] removed the child from the mother's custody at birth, but the child was returned to the mother within a month. A court order in place at that time stipulated that the mother was not to have contact with the father. Nonetheless, the mother and the father married about six months after the child was born and began living together without notifying DHR. In September 2011, after the mother and the child were found living with the father in violation of the previous court order, the juvenile court entered an order removing the child from the parents' home until the parents could complete certain services. When those services were completed, the child was returned to the parents in October 2012.

         On February 6, 2013, DHR and the parents agreed that the case should be closed. However, soon after in February 2013, the mother and the father separated, accusing each other of being unfaithful. At the end of January 2013, before the parties separated, the mother had begun dating another man, J.K., whom she met through a mutual friend. The father and J.K. had known one another in their youth. The father testified that J.K. was a " drug head," and, after he learned that J.K. and the mother were dating, the father threatened to fight J.K. The father also threatened that the mother would never see the child again if she did not return to him after they had separated. The mother accused the father of pushing her down during one argument.

         On February 15, 2013, the mother and the father each sought an order of protection from abuse (" PFA" ) against each other, because, each said, the other had been making threats to hurt or kill the other. The parties were to take drug screens the day they sought their respective PFA orders. The father returned to the courthouse after submitting to the drug screen, which indicated that the father had used marijuana.

         When the mother did not return to the courthouse after her drug screen (she testified

Page 463

that she was not aware that she had to return), the court that issued the PFA order requested by the father included a provision in its PFA order directing that the mother was not to have contact with the child. The father testified that it was never his intention to keep the mother from seeing the child, and, despite the court order, he agreed that the mother could visit with the child at the father's cousin's house.

         On February 18, 2013, the father went to a house where the mother and J.K. were staying with a friend. The mother and the father spoke outside at length. The father offered to attend anger-management counseling, but the mother told the father it was " too late." When the mother went back inside the house to use the restroom, the father went into the house and began opening the doors to each of the rooms. The father found J.K. in one of the rooms and began yelling and cursing at him and threatening to beat him up. The mother testified that she could hear the two fighting. Ultimately, J.K. shot the father three times, in the leg, the hand, and the abdomen. The father was hospitalized. J.K. claimed he shot the father in self-defense. The gun used in the shooting belonged to the mother. The child was at the house at the time of the shooting. Neither J.K. nor the mother was charged in connection with the shooting.

         Jasmin Morris, who works in the foster-care unit of DHR, testified that DHR was not notified of the shooting until two days later, on February 20, 2013. At that time, Morris said, the child was taken into protective custody by DHR. The mother testified that she had left the child with the father's cousin until the details of the shooting could be worked out and because of the PFA order denying her contact with the child. Morris testified that the mother remained in contact with DHR after the shooting and attended her scheduled visitations with the child.

         In the meantime, DHR conducted an investigation into the father's shooting. Morris testified that DHR determined that J.K. had shot the father while defending himself and that the child had not been in danger. The report of child abuse and neglect arising from the shooting incident was found to be " not indicated," Morris said, and the child did not qualify as " being vulnerable."

         Since the child has been back in DHR's custody, the mother has had another child (" the younger child" ). The mother went to Tennessee to give birth to the younger child and was apparently gone from Alabama for three weeks. Although the mother originally told the father that the child was not his, by the time of the termination trial, it had been established that the father was the father of the younger child. The parties' parental rights to the younger child were not terminated. In fact, Morris testified, DHR's permanency plan for the younger child is reunification with the parents. Morris testified that the permanency plans for the child and the younger child are different because, Morris said, the child was in DHR's care for the third time.

          Morris testified that the mother had completed all of the services that DHR recommended for her. A psychological examination of the mother indicated that she had no mental issues that would prevent her from being able to parent the child. Other than the three weeks the mother was in Tennessee, Morris said, the mother has consistently exercised her visitations with the child. At the time of the trial, Morris said, the mother had unsupervised ...


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