A.A. v. Jefferson County Department of Human Resources, 083019 ALCIV, 2180368

Docket Nº:2180368, 2180369
Opinion Judge:DONALDSON, JUDGE.
Party Name:A.A., Sr. v. Jefferson County Department of Human Resources
Judge Panel:Thompson, P.J., and Hanson, J., concur. Moore and Edwards, JJ., concur in the result, without writings.
Case Date:August 30, 2019
Court:Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
 
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A.A., Sr.

v.

Jefferson County Department of Human Resources

Nos. 2180368, 2180369

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

August 30, 2019

Appeal from Jefferson Juvenile Court, Bessemer Division (DR-17-65 and DR-17-69)

DONALDSON, JUDGE.

A.A., Sr. ("the father"), appeals from judgments of the Jefferson Juvenile Court, Bessemer Division ("the juvenile court"), adjudicating A.A., Jr., and K.A. to be dependent. The judgments are not final, and "[t]his court must dismiss an appeal taken from a nonfinal judgment." Stanford v. Feige, 816 So.2d 501, 503 (Ala. Civ. App. 2001). Therefore, for the reasons discussed herein, the appeals are dismissed.

Facts and Procedural History

The father and Vi.A. ("the mother") are the parents of V.A.A. ("the eldest daughter"), A.A., Jr., K.A., and Va.A. ("the youngest daughter").

On November 10, 2016, the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources ("DHR") filed complaints in the juvenile court alleging that A.A., Jr., and K.A. ("the sons") were dependent. Upon DHR's request, the juvenile court entered pickup orders for the sons. DHR also initiated dependency proceedings regarding the eldest daughter and the youngest daughter. DHR further alleged that "[the father had] stated that he also want[ed] to relinquish custody of [the youngest daughter]."

After conducting a shelter-care hearing, the juvenile court entered an order in each child's case, granting pendente lite custody of the youngest daughter to DHR and granting pendente lite custody of the rest of the children to B.B. ("the maternal aunt"). In the orders, the juvenile court ruled that the parents and the youngest daughter were not to have any contact but granted supervised visitation to the parents with the rest of the children.

The juvenile court appointed a guardian ad litem and a court appointed special advocate to represent the children's best interests.

On January 31, 2017, after having conducted a preliminary hearing, the juvenile court entered orders dismissing the eldest daughter's case because she had reached the age of 18 and continuing the visitation and custody arrangements of the other children.1 Along with the maternal aunt, the orders named E.B. ("the maternal uncle") as a pendente lite custodian of the sons.

On June 13, 2017, after having conducted a preliminary and permanency hearing, the juvenile court rendered orders that were later entered on June 15, 2017. In the orders, the juvenile court continued the existing custody and visitation arrangements and set the matter for a "permanency hearing" on September 12, 2017.

On June 13, 2017, the father filed a "Motion for Hearing on Father's Entitlement to Custody of His Sons," in which he stated: "Comes now [counsel for the father], and moves the Court for an Order setting a hearing within the next two weeks on his entitlement vel non to custody of his two minor sons.

"As grounds for the motion, [the father] would show unto the Court that there has been no hearing, of which he has had notice, to determine whether he is an unfit parent. ...

"Under Alabama law, [the father] has a prima facie right to custody of his sons. ...

"WHEREFORE, the premises considered, [the father] prays that the Court will specially set down this motion within the next two weeks; and that unless the Plaintiff DHR carries its burden of proving that he is an unfit parent for his sons, the Court will grant to him his constitutional right of custody of his sons. ..."

Later on June 13, 2017, the mother and the father filed several objections to the orders rendered on June 13, 2017.

On June 14, 2017, the juvenile court entered orders in the sons' cases stating that the mother had requested a trial and that the issues raised by the father's motions and the parents' objections would be addressed at the "dependency trial."

On June 20, 2017, the juvenile court conducted a trial. At the beginning of the trial, the parties and the juvenile court discussed the subject matter of the trial. The juvenile-court judge stated: "I just want it on the record. I want everybody to be clear as to what we're about to do. We're about to enter a dependency that involves the custody issue as well." During the trial, the juvenile court excluded testimony from witnesses pertaining to the disposition of the children on the basis that such testimony was not relevant to the issue of dependency. At the conclusion of the trial, the juvenile court stated: "This trial today was a dependency trial and a custody trial. It was not a dispositional trial.

"When there's a...

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