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Ex parte C.L.L.M.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

January 12, 2018

Ex parte C.L.L.M.
v.
A.D.L. In re: C.L.L.M.

         Limestone Circuit Court, DR-17-900125.

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          DONALDSON, Judge.

         C.L.L.M. ("the father") petitions this court for a writ of mandamus directing the Limestone Circuit Court ("the trial court") to vacate the order transferring the action to the Juvenile Court of Tuscaloosa County. For the reasons set forth below, we deny the petition.

         Background

         The materials submitted by the parties indicate the following. On March 27, 2017, A.D.L. ("the mother") gave birth to L.T.L. ("the child") in a hospital in Madison County. On March 28, 2017, the mother executed forms relinquishing custody of the child to an organization in anticipation of adoption proceedings. On March 28, 2017, the father contacted the organization and expressed his objection to the adoption proceedings and his claim of paternity of the child. On April 4, 2017, the father filed a written notice of his intent to claim paternity of the child by registering with the Alabama Putative Father Registry. See § 26-10C-1, Ala. Code 1975.

         On April 6, 2017, the father filed a petition against the mother in the trial court, seeking to establish paternity, to obtain custody of the child, and to receive child-support payments from the mother. See § 26-17-104, Ala. Code 1975; Brock v. Herd, 187 So.3d 1161, 1163-64 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015). In the petition, the father alleged that he and the mother were residents of Limestone County, that they had had sexual relations, and that they had resided together for two years until on or about March 10, 2017, when the mother vacated their residence. The father further alleged that, after the child was born, the mother and the child both tested positive for an illegal substance, that the mother left the hospital without taking the child with her, and that the mother was attempting to evade arrest for the charge of chemical endangerment of the child. The father also alleged that the mother took the action of placing the child for adoption without his knowledge.

         On April 10, 2017, the trial court entered an order directing the father and the child to be tested for paternity under the supervision of the Limestone County Department of Human Resources.

         On April 12, 2017, J.T.L. and K.D.L. ("the prospective adoptive parents") initiated an action to adopt the child in the Shelby Probate Court ("the adoption case"). The father filed an answer and a counterclaim in the adoption case, which is still pending.

         On June 5, 2017, and June 21, 2017, the father filed motions in the trial court seeking an amended order for paternity testing. On June 29, 2017, the trial court entered an amended order for paternity testing. The results of the paternity testing indicate a 99.99% probability that the father is the biological father of the child.

         On August 24, 2017, an attorney representing the child filed a motion in the trial court seeking to transfer the action to Tuscaloosa County. The motion included the following assertions: the child has resided in Tuscaloosa County with the prospective adoptive parents since the child's release from the hospital on April 9, 2017; the Shelby Probate Court entered an interlocutory order placing custody of the child with the prospective adoptive parents; the father has contested the prospective adoptive parents' petition to adopt the child; and the prospective adoptive parents are expected to initiate proceedings addressing issues related to the present action in, or to seek a transfer of another action with related issues to, a court with juvenile jurisdiction in Tuscaloosa County. The attorney representing the child filed a brief in support of the motion, asserting that Limestone County was an improper venue or, in the alternative, that the action should be transferred to Tuscaloosa County pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

         On August 25, 2017, the father filed an objection to the motion to transfer. His objection included the following assertions: he did not consent to an adoption of the child; the child lacked the capacity to file the motion to transfer; he filed the petition in the present action before the release of the child from the hospital; and both he and the mother reside in Limestone County. In addition to his request to dismiss the motion to transfer, the father requested that the trial court appoint a guardian ad litem for the child.

         On October 6, 2017, without appointing a guardian ad litem, the trial court entered an order transferring the action to a court in Tuscaloosa County with juvenile jurisdiction. On October 30, 2017, the father filed the present petition for a writ of mandamus. An answer in opposition to the petition was filed by the attorney representing the child.

         Standard of Review

"A petition for the writ of mandamus is the appropriate means by which to challenge a trial court's order regarding a change of venue. Ex parte Sawyer, 892 So.2d 898, 901 (Ala. 2004). The writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy; it will not be issued unless the petitioner shows '"'(1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate remedy; and (4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court.'"' Ex parte Inverness Constr. Co., 775 So.2d 153, ...

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