Madison County Department of Human Resources
Appeals from Madison Juvenile Court (JU-13-277.02 and
2018, the Madison County Department of Human Resources
("DHR") filed petitions in the Madison Juvenile
Court ("the juvenile court"), seeking to have B.C.
and C.C. ("the children") declared dependent
because, according to the allegations in the petitions,
E.C.B. ("the mother") and J.R.C. ("the
father") had both tested positive for illegal drugs. The
petition relating to B.C. was assigned case number
JU-13-277.02, and the petition relating to C.C. was assigned
case number JU-18-660.01. In August 2018, the juvenile court
entered a judgment in both case number JU-18-660.01 and case
number JU-13-277.02 ("the dependency actions"),
declaring the children dependent, awarding their legal
custody to DHR, and awarding temporary physical custody to
J.C. ("the paternal grandfather"). In January 2019,
the juvenile court set the dependency actions for a
dispositional and permanency hearing to be held on March 20,
March 20, 2019, the mother filed a motion to continue the
dispositional and permanency hearing in the dependency
actions, and counsel for the mother appeared at the hearing
to explain that the mother was in Florida and was unable to
travel to the hearing. Although the juvenile court did not
expressly rule on the mother's motion, that motion was
implicitly denied when the juvenile court proceeded to
conduct the hearing in her absence. The attorneys for the
father and for DHR indicated that they were in agreement with
DHR's request that the children be placed in the
permanent legal and physical custody of the paternal
grandfather and that DHR be relieved of supervision. Counsel
for the mother indicated that the mother was not in agreement
with DHR's request and stated that the mother was
requesting a hearing, which the juvenile court indicated had
been set for that date. The juvenile court then conducted a
hearing at which no testimony was taken and at which no
evidence was admitted.
juvenile court entered judgments in the dependency actions on
April 15, 2019, concluding that the children remained
dependent, awarding the paternal grandfather permanent legal
and physical custody of the children, relieving DHR of
further supervision, and closing the cases. The mother filed
timely notices of appeal in the dependency actions, and we
consolidated the mother's appeals. On appeal, the mother
argues that the juvenile court violated her due-process
rights by failing to take evidence at the March 20, 2019,
hearing to establish that the children remained dependent and
that the best interests of the children would be served by
awarding the paternal grandfather permanent custody of the
children. DHR concedes that the manner in which the juvenile
court conducted the proceedings on March 20, 2019, requires
reversal of the juvenile court's April 2019 judgments
awarding custody of the children to the paternal grandfather
and relieving DHR of further supervision.
juvenile court's finding of dependency must be supported
by clear and convincing evidence. See Ala. Code
1975, § 12-15-311(a). We concluded in M.P.G. v.
Jefferson County Department of Human Resources, 215
So.3d 1096, 1100 (Ala. Civ. App. 2016), that a juvenile court
may not "close" a dependency case without holding a
dispositional trial at which a parent is given the
opportunity to introduce evidence regarding the continued
dependency and the proper disposition of the child.
Furthermore, in L.W. v. Cullman County Department of
Human Resources, 181 So.3d 1070, 1071 (Ala. Civ. App.
2015), we explained that a juvenile court violates a
parent's due-process rights when that court fails to
receive evidence in support of a custody or dependency
judgment. We held similarly in A.D.J.D. v. Cullman County
Department of Human Resources, 181 So.3d 359, 361 (Ala.
Civ. App. 2015).
"the record [in the present case] reflects that the
mother did not appear at that hearing and that no party
presented evidence at that hearing regarding the
[children's] dependency, the suitability of [the paternal
grandfather] for custody, or the propriety of terminating
DHR's services to the family. The [April 2019]
judgment[s] [are] devoid of evidentiary support and [were]
entered in a manner inconsistent with the mother's right
to due process."
181 So.3d at 361. Accordingly, the April 2019 judgments of
the juvenile court are reversed, and the causes are remanded
for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Thompson, P.J., and Moore, Donaldson, and ...