R.R. and P.W.R.
Chilton County Department of Human Resources
from Chilton Juvenile Court (JU-17-168.01)
September 2017, the Chilton County Department of Human
Resources ("DHR") filed a petition in the Chilton
Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") seeking to
have R.E.R. ("the child") declared dependent. The
juvenile court held a shelter-care hearing and, on September
8, 2017, entered a shelter-care order. The juvenile court
then set the matter for an adjudicatory hearing, which, after
requested continuances were granted, was held on December 7,
2017. In November 2017, R.R. ("the father") and
P.W.R. ("the stepmother") moved the juvenile court
to "compel" DHR to require the attendance of the
child at family counseling in lieu of visitation.
juvenile court took no testimony and received no documentary
evidence at the adjudicatory hearing. On December 12, 2017,
the juvenile court entered a judgment declaring the child
dependent. The father and the stepmother filed a timely
postjudgment motion in which, among other things, they
specifically objected to the juvenile court's finding the
child dependent without having taken evidence. After that
motion was denied, the father and the stepmother filed a
timely notice of appeal. On appeal, they present two issues:
whether the juvenile court erred in finding the child
dependent without having taken any evidence and whether the
juvenile court erred by failing to allow them to have
visitation with the child based on the child's objection
to such visitation.
brief on appeal, DHR concedes that the manner in which the
juvenile court conducted the proceedings on December 7, 2017,
denied the father and the stepmother their rights to due
process and that the dependency adjudication must be
reversed. As we explained in N.J.D. v. Madison
County Department of Human Resources, 110 So.3d
387, 390-91 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012):
"'"[A] parent is entitled to due process in
proceedings involving the custody of a child."
Strain v. Maloy, 83 So.3d 570, 571 (Ala. Civ. App.
2011). In Strain v. Maloy, supra, this court
"'"'In dealing with such a delicate and
difficult question -- the welfare of a minor child -- due
process of law in legal proceedings should be observed. These
settled courses of procedure, as established by our law,
include due notice, a hearing or opportunity to be heard
before a court of competent jurisdiction.'
"'"Danford [v. Dupree], 272 Ala. [517,
] 520, 132 So.2d [734, ] 735-36 [(1961)]. As this court has
"'"'[P]rocedural due process contemplates
the basic requirements of a fair proceeding including an
impartial hearing before a legally constituted court; an
opportunity to present evidence and arguments;
information regarding the claims of the opposing party; a
reasonable opportunity to controvert the opposition's
claims; and representation by counsel if it is desired.'
"'"Crews v. Houston Cnty. Dep't of
Pensions & Sec., 358 So.2d 451, 455 (Ala. Civ. App.
1978) (emphasis added)."
"'83 So.3d at 571.'"
N.J.D., 110 So.3d at 390-91 (quoting Gilmore v.
Gilmore, 103 So.3d 833, 835 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010));
see also C.M.A. v. Cullman Cty. Dep't of Human
Res., 185 So.3d 1111 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015). Thus, based
on the record and on DHR's concession, we conclude that
the December 12, 2017, judgment, insofar as it determined
that the child was dependent, is devoid of evidentiary
support and was entered in a manner inconsistent with the
father's and the stepmother's right to due process.
DHR does not concede error regarding the juvenile court's
refusal to enter an order requiring the child to visit with
the father and the stepmother. Instead, DHR asserts that the
juvenile court can make any award pertaining to visitation so
long as that award is in the best interest of the child, and
it contends that certain "evidence" supports the
conclusion that visitation is not currently in the best
interest of the child. However, because the juvenile court
took no evidence, there is no evidentiary support for either
a judgment ordering specific visitation or one declining to
order visitation. The juvenile court may consider the
visitation issue anew when it holds an evidentiary hearing.
on the foregoing, the judgment of the juvenile court is
reversed, and the cause is remanded for ...