from Coffee Juvenile Court (JU-10-16.05)
THOMPSON, PRESIDING JUDGE.
September 12, 2016, B.C. ("the aunt") filed a
petition in the Coffee Juvenile Court ("the juvenile
court") seeking to have W.C. ("the child")
declared dependent and seeking an award of custody of the
child. In that petition, the aunt alleged that the
child's father was incarcerated and that the child's
mother, R.S. ("the mother"), had exposed the child
to violence and was financially unable to provide for him.
The aunt also filed a separate petition seeking an award of
emergency custody of the child.
September 13, 2016, the juvenile court conducted a hearing on
the aunt's request for an award of emergency custody.
During that hearing, the parties testified that the mother
and the child had moved from Miami, Florida, to Alabama on
July 22, 2016. Their testimony also referenced a Florida
court action pertaining to the child, who is 17 years old,
that resulted in the child's being removed from the
mother's custody. The parties provided no specific
information about that action; it is not clear whether it was
in the nature of a delinquency action or a dependency action.
September 13, 2016, the juvenile court entered an emergency
order awarding the aunt pendente lite custody of the child.
The juvenile court scheduled a dependency hearing that was
ultimately conducted on February 7, 2017. The mother failed
to appear at the dependency hearing. None of the evidence
presented at the dependency hearing provided additional
information concerning the Florida court action pertaining to
February 7, 2017, the juvenile court entered a judgment
finding the child to be dependent and awarding custody of him
to the aunt. The mother filed a postjudgment motion, and the
juvenile court denied that motion. The mother timely
party has addressed the jurisdiction of the Alabama courts to
consider the aunt's dependency action. The Alabama
Juvenile Justice Act, § 12-15-101 et seq., Ala. Code
1975, governs dependency actions. However, the Uniform Child
Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("the
UCCJEA"), § 30-3B-101 et seq., Ala. Code 1975,
governs the jurisdiction of circuit courts and juvenile
courts to consider a "child custody proceeding." A
child-custody proceeding governed by the UCCJEA includes not
only an action between parents seeking custody determination
but also, among other things, a dependency action. M.B.
v. B.B., [Ms. 2160373, Aug. 4, 2017] So. 3d, (Ala. Civ.
App. 2017); J.D. v. Lauderdale Cty. Dep't of Human
Res., 121 So.3d 381, 384 (Ala. Civ. App. 2013). Thus, in
order to properly exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over
the aunt's action seeking to have the child declared
dependent and seeking an award of custody of the child, the
juvenile court had to comply with the jurisdictional
requirements of the UCCJEA.
order to make a custody determination incident to a
dependency determination, a juvenile court must have
jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination under
the UCCJEA. M.B. v. B.B., So.3d at; J.D. v.
Lauderdale Cty. Dep't of Human Res., supra. In
setting forth the requirements for a court to have
jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination, the
UCCJEA provides, in pertinent part:
"(a) Except as otherwise provided in Section 30-3B-204,
[Ala. Code 1975, ] a court of this state has jurisdiction to
make an initial child custody determination only if:
"(1) This state is the home state of the child on the
date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home
state of the child within six months before the commencement
of the proceeding and the child is absent from this state but
a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in
"(2) A court of another state does not have jurisdiction
under subdivision (1), or a court of the home state of the
child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground
that this state is the more appropriate forum under Section
30-3B-207 or 30-3B-208, [Ala. Code 1975, ] and:
"a. The child and the child's parents, or the child
and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have
a significant connection with this state other than mere
physical presence; and
"b. Substantial evidence is available in this state
concerning the child's care, protection, training, and
"(3) All courts having jurisdiction under subdivision
(1) or (2) have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the
ground that a court of this state is the more appropriate
forum to determine the custody of the ...