Ex parte B.W.
B.W. In re: A.L.E.
FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS Mobile Juvenile Court, CS-16-900634
petitions this court for a writ of mandamus directing the
Mobile Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") to
enter an order dismissing an action for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. For the reasons set forth below,
we deny the petition.
and Procedural History
November 3, 2015, B.W. gave birth to A.E. ("the
child"). B.W. and A.L.E. completed and signed a form for
acknowledging A.L.E.'s paternity of the child. The
Alabama Center for Health Statistics, which in Alabama
performs the functions of an office of vital statistics,
received the form on November 9, 2015. The form allows
signatories to indicate whether genetic testing has been
completed and, if so, whether the results are consistent with
the claim of paternity. The form executed by B.W. and A.L.E.,
however, lacks any marks to indicate whether any genetic
testing had been completed.
18, 2016, A.L.E. filed a complaint against B.W. in the
juvenile court. A.L.E. sought to establish his paternity of
the child, to obtain custody of the child, and to require
B.W. to pay child support. B.W. filed an answer in which she
alleged that A.L.E. was the "putative father" of
the child. A.L.E. filed other motions relating to, among
other things, discovery and pendente lite custody of the
October 23, 2017, B.W. filed a motion to dismiss the action
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In the motion, B.W.
argued that A.L.E.'s paternity of the child had already
been established at the time the complaint was filed based on
the form for acknowledging paternity that had been signed by
both parties and that, therefore, the juvenile court lacked
original subject-matter jurisdiction of the paternity action.
November 17, 2017, the juvenile court entered an order
indicating that it had conducted a hearing. In the order, the
juvenile court denied B.W.'s motion to dismiss and levied
a sanction against B.W. in the amount of $1, 734.30 for
B.W.'s failure to answer discovery. The juvenile court
set the matter for trial on April 17, 2018.
December 5, 2017, B.W. filed the present petition for a writ
of mandamus and a motion to stay the proceedings until this
court's decision on her petition. Because B.W. had not sought
a stay in the juvenile court, this court denied the motion to
stay, citing Rule 8(b), Ala. R. App. P. On December 14, 2017,
B.W. filed a motion to stay in the juvenile court. On
December 20, 2017, B.W. filed a renewed motion to stay in
this court, asserting that the juvenile court had orally
denied her December 14, 2017, motion to stay but had also
stated that it would not enforce any orders. On December 22,
2017, A.L.E. filed an answer in opposition to the petition
for a writ of mandamus.
contends that the form for the acknowledgment of paternity
executed by B.W. and A.L.E. conclusively established the
paternity of the child, thus precluding the juvenile court
from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over this
paternity action. "'Subject-matter jurisdiction
concerns a court's power to decide certain types
of cases.'" Bates v. Stewart, 99 So.3d 837,
850 (Ala. 2012) (quoting Ex parte Seymour, 946 So.2d
536, 538 (Ala. 2006)). Section 12-15-115(a), Ala. Code 1975,
provides, in relevant part:
"A juvenile court shall also exercise original
jurisdiction of the following civil proceedings:
"(6) Proceedings to establish parentage of a child
pursuant to the Alabama Uniform Parentage Act, Chapter 17 of
"(7) Proceedings to establish, modify, or enforce
support, visitation, or custody when a juvenile court
previously has ...