Shelby County Department of Human Resources; P.D.M.
Shelby County Department of Human Resources
Appeals from Shelby Juvenile Court. (JU-10-596.08).
Presiding Judge. Pittman, Thomas, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ.,
THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.
(" 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"
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, 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.
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.
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
the mother did not return to the courthouse after her drug
screen (she testified
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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