Ex parte K.W.
K.A.W. In re: A.J.D.
(Jefferson Juvenile Court, CS-06-1957.04 and CS-06-1957.06)
THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
("the mother") petitions this court for a writ of
mandamus directing the Jefferson Juvenile Court ("the
juvenile court") to vacate the juvenile court's May
17, 2019, order that, among other things, denied the
mother's motion to dismiss filed in case no.
CS-06-1957.06 ("the .06 action") and to enter an
order dismissing that action. Additionally, the mother seeks
mandamus relief directing the juvenile court to vacate any
order or judgment entered after February 1, 2017, in a
related action involving the same parties, case no.
CS-06-1957.04 ("the .04 action"), which the
juvenile court purported to consolidate with the .06 action.
Both the .04 action and the .06 action involve disputes
between the mother and A.J.D. ("the father")
concerning the custody of, specifically the father's
visitation with, their child ("the child"). The
mother asserts that, under the Uniform Child Custody
Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("the UCCJEA"),
§ 30-3B-101 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, the juvenile court
lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to entertain the .06
action and to enter any orders in the .04 action after it had
entered a judgment dismissing that action on February 1,
2017, from which neither party appealed. On May
31, 2019, pursuant to Rule 21(b), Ala. R. App. P., this court
called for answers to the petition to be filed, but none was
received from the respondent juvenile-court judge or from the
father. Therefore, in assessing the merits of the
mother's petition, this court will "take the
averments of fact in the ... petition as true." Ex
parte Allison, 238 So.3d 1260, 1262 (Ala. Civ. App.
2017) (citing Ex parte Turner, 840 So.2d 132, 135
petition and the materials the mother submitted to this court
in support of her petition indicate the following. According
to the petition, the mother and the father never married. The
mother asserts that the father's paternity was
established in 2006 and that he was ordered to pay child
support of $304 each month at that time, but there are no
court orders to that effect in the materials submitted to us.
It appears that the paternity and child-support action in the
juvenile court was designated case no.
petition, the mother asserts that the father served an
"extended period" in prison and that he was
unemployed at the time his child-support obligation was
established. Included in the materials submitted to this
court is a motion in which the mother stated that on
September 16, 2008, the juvenile court entered an order
directing the father to pay $129 each month toward a
child-support arrearage that had accrued. There are no
documents in the materials before us demonstrating that an
action was filed to establish the father's arrearage.
Also, the September 16, 2008, order is not included in the
materials. However, the action resulting in the September 16,
2008, judgment was apparently designated as case no.
the mother and the child moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where
they still reside. In January 2015, the father filed a
petition in the juvenile court seeking visitation with the
child. That petition was designated as case no. CS-06-1957.03
("the .03 action"). According to the mother, the
petition in the .03 action was dismissed because the father
failed to timely serve the mother.
10, 2016, the father, appearing pro se, filed a second
petition in the juvenile court seeking visitation with the
child. That petition was designated as case no. CS-06-1957.04
("the .04 action"). When that petition was filed,
the father resided in Birmingham and, as mentioned, the
mother and the child were living in Atlanta.
November 18, 2016, the mother filed a petition in the
juvenile court for a rule nisi and for modification of the
father's child-support obligation. Although it is not
entirely clear from the materials before us, it appears that
the juvenile court designated the mother's petition as
case no. CS-06-1957.05 ("the .05 action"). In her
petition, the mother alleged that, as of November 4, 2016,
the father's child-support arrearage was $55, 052.28.
Furthermore, the mother alleged, the father had obtained
employment since the entry of the 2006 judgment originally
establishing child support. Therefore, she said, a material
change in circumstances had occurred warranting a
modification of his monthly child-support obligation.
February 1, 2017, the juvenile court entered the following
judgment, apparently addressing both the .04 action and .05
"The child and mother are both residents of the State of
Georgia, Fulton County, and this court lacks jurisdiction to
hear the [father's] petition for visitation and the
[mother's] petition for modification and Rule Nisi. Issue
of jurisdiction was invoked by the [mother]. Parties ordered
to seek relief in Fulton County, Georgia. Cases dismissed,
remove from docket."
party appealed that February 1, 2017, judgment, and this
court will not reach the merits of that
judgment. On February 2, 2017, the Alabama
Department of Human Resources ("DHR") filed a
motion and a separate petition to intervene in the action
regarding child support -- i.e., the .05 action. However,
both the motion and the petition are designated as having
been filed in the .04 action. From the materials submitted to
us, we cannot discern how or if the juvenile court disposed
of DHR's request.
February 15, 2017, the guardian ad litem for the child filed
a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the February 1, 2017,
judgment, arguing that the juvenile court still retained
jurisdiction. That postjudgment motion was denied by
operation of law on March 1, 2017. See Rule 59.1,
Ala. R. Civ. P; Rule 1(B), Ala. R. Juv. P. At that point, the
juvenile court no longer had jurisdiction over the
parties' claims in the .04 action and the .05 action.
See H.C. v. S.L., 251 So.3d 793, 794 (Ala. Civ. App.
2017)(once a postjudgment motion has been denied by operation
of law, the juvenile court loses jurisdiction over the
the February 1, 2017, judgment and its explicit instruction
that the parties were to seek relief in a Georgia court, the
father continued to file in the juvenile court petitions or
motions related to visitation with the child. The materials
submitted to us indicated that on June 19, 2018, the juvenile
court entered a judgment referring to a June 13, 2018,
trial. In that judgment, among other things, the
juvenile court purported to "grant[ the father] relief
pertaining to visitation with the minor child" and
established a visitation schedule. On June 29, 2018, the
mother, appearing pro se, filed in the juvenile court a
motion to "change venue," in which she argued, as
she had previously, that the juvenile court did not have
jurisdiction to decide the issues of visitation.
October 3, 2018, the father filed in the juvenile court a
petition to hold the mother in contempt for failing to allow
visitation as ordered in the June 19, 2018, judgment. That
petition was designated as case no. CS-06-1957.06--i.e., the
.06 action. On February 19, 2019, the juvenile court entered
an order, purportedly in the .04 action that had already been
dismissed, setting forth the times when the father was to
have visitation and establishing guidelines for the father to
follow when the child was visiting with him. In the order,
the juvenile court purported to consolidate the .04 action
with the .06 action and set a hearing for May 17, 2019. The
mother was directed to bring the child to that hearing.
mother filed a second motion to "change venue" on
March 5, 2019, and she requested that the February 19, 2019,
order be set aside. The mother again asserted that the
juvenile court did not have jurisdiction over issues
concerning visitation with the child. On March 22, 2019, the
mother, for the first time represented by counsel, filed a
motion to dismiss. On May 17, 2019, the juvenile court
entered an order that, among other things, denied the
mother's motions to "change venue" and to
"This court may review an order denying a motion to
dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the
UCCJEA via a petition for a writ of mandamus. See Ex