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G. S. v. Cullman County Department of Human Resources

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 20, 2017

G.S.
v.
Cullman County Department of Human Resources D.Je.S.
v.
Cullman County Department of Human Resources G.S.
v.
Cullman County Department of Human Resources D.Je.S.
v.
Cullman County Department of Human Resources

         Appeals from Cullman Juvenile Court (JU-12-683.02, JU-12-684.02, JU-12-685.02, and JU-12-686.02)

          PITTMAN, Judge.

         In these consolidated appeals, G.S. ("the mother") and D.Je.S. ("the father") appeal from judgments of the Cullman Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") terminating their parental rights to their four children, namely, D.Ja.S. ("the oldest child"), a son born in May 2000; W.J.S. ("the second-born child"), a son born in July 2001; S.E.S. ("the third-born child"), a son born in December 2003; and J.K.S. ("the youngest child"), a son born in November 2005.

         Procedural History

         In November 2012, the juvenile court found the children to be dependent and awarded the Cullman County Department of Human Resources ("DHR") temporary custody of the children. In March 2016, DHR filed petitions seeking the termination of the mother's and the father's parental rights to each of the children. In January 2017, the juvenile court tried all four termination-of-parental-rights actions together. Later that same month, the juvenile court entered separate judgments in each of the actions terminating the mother's and the father's parental rights to each of the children. The mother and the father each filed postjudgment motions, which were denied by operation of law. Thereafter, the mother and the father each timely appealed to this court. A licensed court reporter recorded the trial stenographically and transcribed it, and the record contains the transcript. Therefore, this court has jurisdiction over these appeals pursuant to Rule 28(A)(1)(c)(ii), Ala. R. Juv. P.

         Pertinent Evidence

         The mother, the father, and the four children lived in Morgan County from 2005 through 2011 before moving to Cullman County in 2012. Regarding the period from 2005 through 2011, the mother testified:

"Q. [By DHR's counsel:] Okay. Now, we have a report from Morgan County. Were those -- were y'all in the -- were you and the children in an abusive relationship with [the father] then from 2005 through 2011 where those reports were?
"A. Yes.
"Q. And were both of y'all involved in drug use then, 2005 through 2011?
"A. Yes."

         Regarding the period before November 2012, the father testified:

"Q. [By the father's counsel:] Okay. How has your behavior changed since 2012 when your kids were taken from you by DHR?
"A. Well, back then, all I could think about -- I was -- now, I was doing what I could to meet their needs, but I was also thinking more of my wants, which was the drug abuse.
"....
"Q. [By DHR's counsel:] Yeah. Okay. But during that period of time, that was most important to you? I think you've testified to that. That was primary on your mind?
"A. When you're hooked on something, it's hard to get away from it.
"Q. Yeah.
"A. I was very hooked on drugs at that point in time.
"Q. How often were y'all using at that point?
"[By the mother's counsel]: Objection to the word y'all.
[By DHR's counsel]: You can object all you want to. He knows whether they were using or not.
"THE COURT: I'm going to allow it.
"A. Do I need to say y'all as we were in a whole?
"Q. (By [DHR's counsel]) Yeah, I want you to answer for you and [the mother].
"A. At the time we were using when we lived in Cullman County -- now, I'm not talking about Holly Pond.
"Q. Holly Pond is in Cullman County?
"A. We wasn't using in Holly Pond.
"Q. Okay.
"A. We lived down here off 31 in a trailer park in Cullman.
"Q. Okay.
"A. We would -- it was in spurts. Sometimes it would be a week-long thing, maybe two-weeks thing and sometimes it would go two or three months without using.
"Q. On using, would you use during those periods -- you said a week, sometimes two weeks. Would you use everyday?
"A. Not everyday, no.
"Q. Okay.
A. We didn't have to use everyday when you did meth[amphetamine].
"Q. Okay. How long would the thrill from that last typically?
"A. A day, two days.
"Q. Okay.
"A. It depends on the drug.
"Q. And did -- during those periods of times, would she use each time you did?
"A. We used together, yes.
"Q. Okay. Were there any times you were using that she wasn't using?
"A. When we were arguing, yes.
"Q. Was there sometimes she was using and you weren't using?
"A. Yes.
"Q. And did she use marijuana a lot?
"A. We was on meth[amphetamine]. We didn't use no marijuana at that time. That was a long time ago.
"Q. And then later on, did she use marijuana more?
"A. Like I said, we were on meth[amphetamine]. Marijuana wasn't in the picture.
"Q. Okay. Did you ever see her smoke marijuana at all?
"A. When we lived by my daddy, we smoked it together.
"Q. Okay. Did you ever see her smoke it with any of the children?
"A. Yes, I did.
"Q. Which children was that?
"A. [The third-born child and the second-born child].
"Q. Okay.
"A. And I think [the oldest child] might have tried it and throwed it down."

         In November 2012, the oldest child's school reported to DHR that the father might have physically abused the oldest child and the youngest child, and DHR investigated the report. Certified copies of court records evidencing the father's criminal record before November 2012 were introduced into evidence without objection. Those records established that the father had been convicted on two charges of third-degree domestic violence based on an incident in 2009 in which he had hit the mother; had hit D.S. ("the paternal grandfather"), the children's paternal grandfather; and had fired a shotgun. Those records also established that, in 2012, the father had been convicted of driving under the influence. In addition, those records established that, in 2012, the mother had filed an action seeking a protection-from-abuse order against the father, although that action was subsequently dismissed at her request. After investigating the November 2012 ...


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