from Jefferson Juvenile Court, Bessemer Division
THOMPSON, PRESIDING JUDGE.
August 12, 2015, S.L. ("the paternal grandmother")
filed in the Jefferson Juvenile Court, Bessemer Division
("the juvenile court"), a petition seeking to have
N.L. ("the child") declared dependent and seeking
an award of custody of the child. The juvenile court entered
an order on September 1, 2015, finding the child dependent
and awarding the paternal grandmother pendente lite custody
of the child. A similar order was entered on October 19,
2015. It is undisputed that H.C. ("the mother") had
not been served at the time either of those orders was
entered. The paternal grandmother filed an amended dependency
petition on December 11, 2015.
juvenile court conducted a hearing on May 11, 2016, and July
5, 2016. At the close of that hearing, the juvenile court
orally found the child dependent, cited reasons for that
finding, and scheduled a dispositional hearing for December
2016, during which, it said, it would receive additional
evidence from the parties. The juvenile court entered an
order on July 8, 2016, in which it found the child dependent,
awarded custody to the paternal grandmother, and ordered the
attorneys for the parties and the child's guardian ad
litem to agree on a visitation schedule for the mother for
the fall of 2016. In that order, the juvenile court scheduled
the dispositional hearing for December 15, 2016.
juvenile court conducted the dispositional hearing on
December 15, 2016, and December 16, 2016. On December 22,
2016, the juvenile court entered a judgment in which it noted
that the child had previously been found dependent, awarded
custody of the child to the paternal grandmother, and closed
the case. The mother filed a postjudgment motion that was
denied by operation of law on January 18, 2017. See
Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P.; Rule 1(B), Ala. R. Juv. P. On
January 19, 2017, the juvenile court purported to enter a
postjudgment order amending the December 22, 2016, judgment.
However, once the mother's postjudgment motion had been
denied by operation of law, the juvenile court lost
jurisdiction to enter that January 19, 2017, postjudgment
order. R.J.G. v. S.S.W., 42 So.3d 747, 751 (Ala.
Civ. App. 2009). Regardless, the mother timely appealed.
mother argues on appeal that the juvenile court erred in
awarding custody of the child to the paternal grandmother
because, she says, the child was not dependent at the time
the December 22, 2016, dispositional judgment was entered. In
order to make a custodial disposition of the child at the
time the December 2016 dispositional judgment was entered,
the juvenile court was required to find that the child was
dependent at the time of the disposition. T.B. v.
T.H., 30 So.3d 429, 431 (Ala. Civ. App. 2009).
"'[I]n order to make a disposition of a child in the
context of a dependency proceeding, the child must in fact be
dependent at the time of that
disposition.'" V.W. v. G.W., 990 So.2d
414, 417 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008) (quoting K.B. v. Cleburne
Cty. Dep't of Human Res., 897 So.2d 379, 389 (Ala.
Civ. App. 2004) (Murdock, J., concurring in the result)).
See also D.D.P. v. D.M.B., 173 So.3d 1, 3 (Ala. Civ.
App. 2015) (same). If the child is not dependent at the time
of the dispositional judgment, the juvenile court lacks
jurisdiction to make a custody determination. M.D. v.
S.C., 150 So.3d 210, 212 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014);
L.R.J. v. C.F., 75 So.3d 985, 987 (Ala. Civ. App.
2011); see also C.C. v. B.L., 142 So.3d 1126, 1129
(Ala. Civ. App. 2013) ("In light of the juvenile
court's finding that the child was not dependent, the
juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to enter a judgment
affecting the custody of the child, including
that in a situation in which the evidence clearly supports a
dependency determination but in which the juvenile court has
omitted an explicit dependency finding, this court has held
that a dependency determination may be implicit in the
judgment. See, e.g., S.L.M. v.
S.C., 171 So.3d 656 (Ala. Civ. App. 2013); M.W.H. v.
R.W., 100 So.3d 603, 607 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012); and
J.P. v. S.S., 989 So.2d 591, 598 (Ala. Civ. App.
2008). In J.P. v. S.S., supra, the juvenile court
found the child in that case dependent in late October 2006,
and, after a dispositional hearing, it entered a June 2007
judgment awarding custody of the child to an aunt and uncle.
The father appealed, arguing that the child was no longer
dependent at the time the June 2007 dispositional judgment
was entered. This court stated that, "when the evidence
in the record supports a finding of dependency and when the
trial court has made a disposition consistent with a finding
of dependency, in the interest of judicial economy this court
may hold that a finding of dependency is implicit in the
trial court's judgment." J.P. v. S.S., 989
So.2d at 598. Given the evidence in that case, this court
held that a finding that the child continued to be dependent
was implicit in the judgment. Id.
case, the juvenile court found the child to be dependent at
the time it entered the July 8, 2016, order. At the
conclusion of the July 2016 hearing, it noted, among other
things, that the mother had not resided long at her new
apartment, that the mother had not yet completed her
probationary period for a conviction for harassment, and that
the mother had not yet completed crisis-management classes
required as a condition of that probation. The juvenile court
received additional evidence over the course of two days in
December 2016. At the dispositional hearing, the mother
presented evidence indicating that, among other things, she
had completed the probationary period, she had completed the
crisis-management classes, she remained living in the same
apartment in which she had lived at the time of the July 2016
hearing, and she had a long-term lease for that apartment.
December 22, 2016, judgment, the juvenile court did not make
any determination regarding whether the child remained
dependent at the time it entered that judgment. This court
has reviewed the evidence in the record on appeal. It is not
clear from our review whether the child remained dependent
when the December 22, 2016, dispositional judgment was
entered, and, therefore, this court cannot, as we did in
J.P. v. S.S., supra, interpret the juvenile
court's December 22, 2016, judgment as containing an
implicit dependency determination. We conclude that the
juvenile court must make a determination regarding whether
the child remained dependent at the time the December 22,
2016, judgment was entered. We reverse the December 22, 2016,
judgment and remand the cause for the juvenile court, as
expeditiously as possible, to enter a new judgment
determining whether the child was dependent at the time it
entered the December 22, 2016, judgment.
AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.
Pittman, Thomas, Moore, and ...