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S.L. v. J.L.C.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

March 29, 2019

S.L. and D.L.
v.
J.L.C. and R.C. S.L. and D.L.
v.
J.L.C. and R.C.

          Appeal from Coffee Juvenile Court JU-15-85.02, JU-15-86.02

          PER CURIAM

         In appeal number 2180013, S.L. ("the paternal grandmother") and D.L. ("the paternal grandfather"), the paternal grandparents of A.W. and X.W. ("the children"), twins born on May 18, 2011, appeal from a judgment entered by the Coffee Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") in case number JU-15-85.02, awarding the children's maternal grandparents, J.L.C. ("the maternal grandfather") and R.C. ("the maternal grandmother"), visitation with A.W. In appeal number 2180014, the paternal grandparents appeal from a separate, but nearly identical, judgment entered by the juvenile court in case number JU-15-86.02, awarding the maternal grandparents visitation with X.W. In both cases, the juvenile court denied the paternal grandmother's postjudgment motion without having conducted a hearing on the motion. Because we hold that there was probable merit to the motion, we reverse the juvenile court's orders denying the paternal grandmother's postjudgment motion.

         Procedural History

         It is undisputed that the children had previously been the subject of dependency actions in the juvenile court in which the paternal grandparents were awarded custody of the children on October 27, 2015.

         On February 21, 2018, the maternal grandparents filed in the Coffee Circuit Court ("the circuit court") a petition seeking grandparent visitation with the children. On March 19, 2018, the paternal grandparents filed a pro se answer in the circuit court. Upon the paternal grandparents' motion, the circuit court transferred the case to the juvenile court, which apparently docketed a separate case for each child.

         On June 18, 2018, the parties and their attorneys appeared before the juvenile court in case number JU-15-85.02 and case number JU-15-86.02, and the following colloquy occurred:

"[The Court:] Present today are [the maternal grandfather] and [the maternal grandmother] who are presently represented by Attorney Sonny Reagan. [The paternal grandparents], as I referenced, are present and represented by Benton Persons.
"But it's my understanding that the parties reached an agreement related to the issues.
"Is that correct?
"[Counsel for the maternal grandparents:] That's correct. Your Honor.
"THE COURT: Whoever would like to recite it may do so.
"[Counsel for the maternal grandparents]: Judge, I'd be glad to take first shot at it.
"The parties have agreed to resume a normal visitation schedule. However, the parties have agreed to have a graduated process to get to full visitation for the [maternal grandparents]. And we will submit proposed orders to the Court laying that out.
"There's going to be conditions as well. And one of those conditions is that [J.L., a neighbor of the maternal grandparents who allegedly sexually molested the children, ] have no contact whatsoever with the children when they're exercising visitation with the maternal grandparents; and also that there be no consumption of alcohol in the presence of the minor children by either party; and also that any medications that are prescribed for adults will be secured and out of the reach of the children.
"And we would expect hopefully that this graduated visitation schedule will initially move to a few hours, like on a Saturday, then go to a full day, then overnight. And eventually we'll end up with a visitation schedule that looks similar to like in a divorce. And hopefully that graduated process will take place over a period of about six months.
"But we'll propose some orders to you.
"[Counsel for the paternal grandparents]: And the only other condition we are asking is that the mother[, A.C., ] not be allowed to take the children out of the [maternal grandparents'] home and to stay under their supervision.
"[Counsel for the maternal grandparents]: Thank you for that. The children bottom line will always be supervised by the grandparents.
"THE COURT: What I'll do then is I'll enter an order that says that the parties have entered into a settlement agreement that's been made known to the Court. Will thirty days be enough time to get a proposed order?
"[Counsel for the maternal grandparents]: Yes, sir. I'll have that to you this week.
"THE COURT: That sounds good. I'll get that order out today saying that y'all have thirty days to get something submitted."

         That same day, the juvenile court entered separate, but nearly identical, orders in case number JU-15-85.02 and case number JU-15-86.02, stating:

"The parties having appeared with counsel on today's date and having announced to the Court that a settlement of the issues has been reached:
"It is ORDERED that the parties shall submit to the Court a proposed order citing the terms of the settlement within 30 days of ...

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