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A.S. v. T.R.B.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

June 9, 2017

A.S.
v.
T.R.B., Jr., T.R.B., Sr., and P.B.

         Appeal from Winston Juvenile Court (CS-13-900032)

          DONALDSON, Judge

         A.S. ("the mother") appeals from an order of the Winston Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") denying her motion filed pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4), Ala. R. Civ. P., seeking relief from the juvenile court's order entered on March 4, 2014, which we determine was interlocutory, and its final judgment entered on November 25, 2014. Despite any procedural deficiencies that might have been present regarding the entry of the March 4, 2014, order, the mother has not established that she was deprived of procedural due process regarding the entry of the November 25, 2014, judgment. Therefore, we affirm the order denying relief from the judgment.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On July 5, 2006, H.C.B. ("the child") was born to the mother and T.R.B., Jr. ("the father"), who were not married. The mother and the father continued to live together for approximately one or two years after the child's birth, when the mother and the child moved out of the home they had shared. After the mother and the child moved out, the father exercised visitation with the child every weekend until the mother and the father began having issues communicating with each other in 2013. In June 2013, the mother filed a petition in the juvenile court to establish paternity, child support, and custody of the child. The father filed an answer admitting paternity of the child and counterclaimed seeking custody.

         On March 3, 2014, the juvenile court held a trial on the mother's petition and the father's counterclaim. The evidence indicated that the child had been living with the mother and D.S., a woman with whom the mother had a close relationship. The mother alleged, among other things, that the father had a drug problem, but no similar allegations were made regarding the mother. Both parents, however, were ordered to submit to drug screens while present in court. The mother's drug screen tested positive for the presence of THC, a component of marijuana. The father's drug screen also tested positive for the presence of THC and also indicated a faint trace of methamphetamine. The juvenile court chastised both parents for apparently lying about their drug use. At the conclusion of a hearing, the juvenile court stated:

"And the whole time we're talking about what's in [the child's] best interest. You know, what are we going to do? And I'm just--I'm really--I'm upset and I'm disappointed in the both of you.
"And here's what we're going to do. We're not doing the final order today. We're going to do a temporary order. Y'all are submitting income affidavits. [P.B. and T.R.B., Sr., the child's paternal grandparents], y'all haven't prepared on it, but you have custody of [the child] for the next six months.
"And the two of y'all [i.e., the parents] are going to go to court referral. You're going to get every other weekend visitation. You're going to get every other weekend visitation. [The father is] not to have any visitation any more than [the mother] has.
"Both of [the parents] are going to go and take drug tests on Friday before they pick up [the child]. And they're going to sit there, and they're going to show [the paternal grandparents] the drug test. And if they've failed, [the paternal grandparents] are authorized by the Court to deny them visitation.
"I'm going to be clear with both of y'all. If something ain't changed in the next six months, y'all [i.e., the paternal grandparents] gear up. You're getting custody. And here's--no. And here's the thing. Y'all [i.e., the parents] have done this to yourselves."

         On March 4, 2014, the day following the hearing, the juvenile court entered an order in which it joined T.R.B., Sr., and P.B. ("the paternal grandparents") as parties to the action, granted "temporary" custody of the child to the paternal grandparents, and granted visitation to the parents. In the same order, the juvenile court set the case for a trial on October 15, 2014. On March 18, 2014, the mother filed what she styled as a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the juvenile court's March 4, 2014, order, but the juvenile court did not rule on the motion. In the same order, the juvenile court set the case for a trial on October 15, 2014. Aside from later filing a Rule 60(b) motion, the mother took no further action to challenge any aspect of the March 4, 2014, order. On October 9, 2014, six days before the scheduled trial, the paternal grandparents filed a motion that they entitled "Intervenors' Motion for Custody."

         On October 15, 2014, the juvenile court held a trial. Testimony was presented from the mother, from the father, and from P.B., the paternal grandmother. At trial, the mother did not raise any objections to the juvenile court's order of March 4, 2014, that had added the paternal grandparents as parties to the action, and she did not raise any objection to the participation of the paternal grandparents in the trial. Following the presentation of the evidence, the juvenile court then indicated that it would take the matter under advisement and issue an order.

         On November 25, 2014, the juvenile court entered a judgment granting custody of the child to the paternal grandparents and visitation to the mother. On December 9, 2014, the mother filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the juvenile court's November 25, 2014, judgment. On February 24, 2015, after a hearing, the juvenile court entered an order purporting to deny the mother's postjudgment motion; however, that order was void because the mother's postjudgment motion had been denied by operation of law on December 23, 2014. See Rule 1(B), Ala. R. Juv. P. The mother filed a notice of appeal on April 7, 2015. That appeal was dismissed by this court as untimely on June ...


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