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B.M v. J.B.R

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 20, 2017

B.M.
v.
J.B.R.

         Appeal from Fayette Probate Court (2017-7)

          MOORE, Judge.

         B.M. ("the father") appeals from a judgment entered by the Fayette Probate Court ("the probate court") granting the petition of J.B.R. ("the stepfather") to adopt R.J.M. ("the child"). We dismiss the appeal.

         On January 31, 2017, the stepfather filed in the probate court a petition seeking to adopt the child. On March 1, 2017, the father answered and objected to the stepfather's petition. After a trial, the probate court entered a judgment on March 17, 2017, granting the stepfather's petition to adopt the child. The father filed his notice of appeal on March 30, 2017.

         Discussion

         On appeal, this court, ex mero motu, raised the issue whether the probate court had jurisdiction over the adoption petition in light of the fact that there exists a previous judgment entered by a Florida court regarding custody of the child, which is referenced in the record on appeal. See D.C.S. v. L.B., 84 So.3d 954, 957 (Ala. Civ. App. 2011) ("'"[T]his Court is duty bound to notice ex mero motu the absence of subject-matter jurisdiction."'" (quoting Baldwin Cty. v. Bay Minette, 854 So.2d 42, 45 (Ala. 2003), quoting in turn Stamps v. Jefferson Cty. Bd. of Educ., 642 So.2d 941, 945 n.2 (Ala. 1994))). The parties were requested to submit briefs on that issue.

          In J.L.L. v. Jefferson County Department of Human Resources, 127 So.3d 433 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012), this court recognized that the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act ("the PKPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1738A, applies to adoption actions. Subsection (d) of the PKPA provides:

"The jurisdiction of a court of a State which has made a child custody or visitation determination consistently with the provisions of this section continues as long as the requirement of subsection (c)(1) of this section continues to be met and such State remains the residence of the child or of any contestant."

         Subsection (c)(1) of the PKPA provides:

"A child custody or visitation determination made by a court of a State is consistent with the provisions of this section only if --
"(1) such court has jurisdiction under the law of such State."

         In the present case, the Circuit Court of Okaloosa County, Florida ("the Florida court"), made a custody determination regarding the child in favor of the father and issued two pickup orders to the child's mother, J.D.H., ordering her to return the child to the custody of the father; the latter pickup order was enforced by the Fayette Circuit Court ("the circuit court") by an order entered on January 13, 2017, in which the circuit court recognized the exclusive continuing jurisdiction of the Florida court over the custody of the child. The stepfather attached a copy of the circuit court's order to his petition for adoption and did not contest the terms of that order. The record indicates that the father remains a resident of Florida.

         Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the Florida court has exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the child's custody under the PKPA. Under § 1738A(f), the probate ...


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