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Ex parte Pruitt

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

November 14, 2018

Ex Parte Tyler Blake Pruitt
Ashley Parkins Pruitt In re: Tyler Blake Pruitt

          Blount Circuit Court, DR-15-900053


          MOORE, JUDGE.

         Tyler Blake Pruitt ("the father") petitions this court for a writ of mandamus directing the Blount Circuit Court ("the trial court") to vacate its pendente lite order awarding William Parkins and Donna Parkins ("the maternal grandparents") visitation with S.B.P. ("the child"), his child with Ashley Parkins Pruitt ("the mother"). We deny the father's petition.

         Procedural History

         On March 16, 2015, the father filed a complaint for a divorce from the mother. On March 25, 2015, the trial court entered a temporary order in the divorce action, setting a temporary schedule for custody and visitation for the mother and the father in accordance with an agreement that had been reached between the mother and the father. Thereafter, on May 11, 2015, the trial court entered a pendente lite order memorializing an agreement of the father and the mother that, among other things, awarded them pendente lite joint physical custody of the child. The mother filed, on September 9, 2015, a motion to continue the trial of the divorce action that was scheduled for September 29, 2015, asserting, among other things, that there were criminal charges pending against her that would not be resolved before the scheduled trial date and that she anticipated the father's seeking to introduce at the trial of the divorce action evidence related to the pending criminal charges. The mother invoked her constitutional right against self-incrimination as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and requested a stay of the divorce proceedings. The trial court granted the mother's motion to continue, noting that the case would be reset on the motion of either party.

         On August 15, 2016, the trial court entered an order awarding pendente lite physical custody of the child to the father, subject to the mother's visitation as specified in the order. In accordance with a plea agreement, the mother pleaded guilty and was sentenced on the criminal charges. The mother was subsequently ordered to turn herself in at the Blount County Jail on July 2, 2018, to begin serving her sentence. On July 3, 2018, the father filed in the divorce action a motion to immediately dissolve the stay and to set the matter for a trial. The trial court reset the divorce action for a trial on November 29, 2018.

         On September 11, 2018, the maternal grandparents filed a motion to intervene in the divorce action and a petition seeking grandparent visitation with the child, pursuant to Alabama's Grandparent Visitation Act ("the GVA"), § 30-3-4.2, Ala. Code 1975. On that same date, the maternal grandparents filed a motion for an expedited hearing on their request for pendente lite grandparent visitation. On October 16, 2018, the same day the trial court held a hearing on the maternal grandparents' request for pendente lite visitation, the father filed a response to the maternal grandparents' motion to intervene and their petition for grandparent visitation, in which he argued, among other things, that the GVA is unconstitutional, both on its face and as applied in this particular case. The certificate of service on the father's response listed counsel for the maternal grandparents, the guardian ad litem, and the attorney general.

         On October 24, 2018, the trial court entered an order awarding the maternal grandparents pendente lite visitation with the child on two separate occasions between the entry of the order and the final hearing -- on October 26 through October 28 and on November 16 through November 18. The father filed, on that same date, a motion to vacate or, in the alternative, to stay the trial court's order until such time as the constitutionality of the GVA could be addressed by the trial court or this court. By entry on the case-action-summary sheet, the trial court denied the father's motion on October 25, 2018. On October 26, 2018, the father timely filed his mandamus petition with this court. That same day, he filed a request for an emergency stay of the trial court's October 24, 2018 order; on October 26, this court granted a stay, pending further order by this court.

         Standard of Review

"'"A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that is available when a trial court has exceeded its discretion. Ex parte Fidelity Bank, 893 So.2d 1116, 1119 (Ala. 2004). A writ of mandamus is 'appropriate when the petitioner can show (1) a clear legal right 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) the properly invoked jurisdiction of the court.' Ex parte BOC Group, Inc., 823 So.2d 1270, 1272 (Ala. 2001)."'"

Ex parte Brown, 963 So.2d 604, 606-07 (Ala. 2007) (quoting Ex parte Rawls, 953 So.2d 374, 377 (Ala. 2006), quoting in turn Ex parte Antonucci, 917 So.2d 825, 830 (Ala. 2005)).


         The father argues that the trial court's award of pendente lite visitation to the maternal grandparents is due to be vacated because, he says, the GVA is unconstitutional on its face and as applied in the present case and because the trial court failed to comply with § 30-3-4.2(o), Ala. Code 1975, a part of the GVA, in entering the pendente lite visitation award. We address the father's arguments out of turn.

         Section 30-3-4.2(o) provides, in pertinent part, that, following a hearing, if the court determines from the evidence that certain circumstances exist and has given special weight to the fundamental right of a fit parent to decide which associations are in the best interest of his or her child, the court may enter a pendente lite order awarding visitation rights to a grandparent, pending the entry of a final judgment. The father argues in his mandamus petition that his due-process rights were violated by the failure of the trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing, as required by § 30-3-4.2(o), before awarding pendente lite visitation to the maternal grandparents. We note, however, that the father failed to argue before the trial court in his motion to vacate that his due-process rights had been violated or that the trial court had failed to comply with § 30-3-4.2(o). Accordingly, this court may not consider that argument by the father in our review of this mandamus petition, and the ...

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