T.C. v. Y.R.
|162 So.3d 920
|01 August 2014
|T.C. v. Y.R.
|Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Laura Peterman Wells, Dothan, for appellant.
Rebecca Henry–McCorkel of Motley, Motley & Yarbrough, LLC, Dothan, for appellee.
T.C. (“the mother”) appeals the judgments entered by the Houston Juvenile Court (“the trial court”) on December 19, 2013, which found El.E. and Ev.E. (“the children”) to be dependent and placing the children in the custody of Y.R. (“the maternal grandmother”).
The maternal grandmother filed petitions on August 27, 2012, in the trial court alleging that the children were dependent. The petitions set forth numerous grounds in support of that assertion, specifically alleging, among other things, that the mother had been in several relationships involving domestic violence, that the mother abuses prescription drugs, and that the mother was at that time admitted to the behavioral-medicine unit of a hospital for mental illness. The maternal grandmother requested legal custody of the children. On that same date, the trial court granted temporary custody of the children to the maternal grandmother. The trial of the matter was continued numerous times, in part to allow the mother to obtain a mental evaluation and in part because, in December 2012, D.E. (“the father”) filed a custody-modification petition in Louisiana state court regarding the children. That action was ultimately resolved when the Louisiana state court declined to exercise jurisdiction over the children and the father dismissed his petition.
The trial court held an adjudicatory hearing on December 12, 2013, at which the only evidence submitted was through the testimony of the mother and the maternal grandmother. The father was also a party to the actions but did not appear at the trial, has not appealed the trial court's judgments, and has not taken any part in these appeals.
At trial, the mother testified that she had moved from Alabama and was living in a one-bedroom converted garage apartment in Norco
, Louisiana, where she had been since May 2013. She testified:
The mother testified that her current job was as an assistant manager at a pizza store, where she had been working since August 2013. She testified that she was taking the prescription medications Effexor
for treatment of “situational depression” and Vicoprofen (a combination of hydrocodone and ibuprofen ) twice daily for pain. She testified that she was seeing a pastor for counseling but that she was not under the care of any mental-health professionals.
When questioned about how many schools the children had attended while in her care, the mother testified that
The mother testified that she did not think the maternal grandmother had given adequate care to the children. In explaining her dissatisfaction with the maternal grandmother's parenting skills, the mother said:
The mother testified that one of the children is deaf in one ear and requires a hearing aid for the other as a result of a birth defect
. The maternal grandmother testified that she had sought surgical treatment for this child. The mother testified that she was opposed to the surgical treatment.
The maternal grandmother testified that the mother had experienced mental-illness issues since her childhood. The maternal grandmother testified that the mother had been engaged in several abusive relationships, had moved frequently, and had failed to adequately provide for herself and for the children regularly throughout their lives. Evidence was presented regarding the mother's past abusive relationships, her abuse of drugs, and her mental-health treatment which included inpatient care. The evidence also showed that the mother had not contributed any amounts toward the support of the children while they had been in the custody of the maternal grandmother.
On December 19, 2013, the trial court entered separate judgments finding the children to be dependent and placing them into the permanent custody of the maternal grandmother. The judgments did not make any findings of fact or state the specific grounds on which the court found the children to be dependent. Neither party takes issue on appeal with the failure of the trial court to issue written findings of fact or to provide the basis of its finding of dependency.
The mother filed motions to alter, amend, or vacate on January 2, 2014, arguing that the evidence did not support a finding that the children were still dependent at the time of the hearing or in the months leading up to the hearing. The trial court denied that motion the same day. The mother filed her notices of appeal on January 2, 2014.
The mother raises a single issue on appeal—whether the trial court's judgments are supported by clear and convincing evidence that the children were dependent at the time of disposition. The mother concedes that, at the time the maternal grandmother filed her petitions seeking a finding of dependency, the children were dependent because “she has had some difficulties and instability in the past.” This includes the facts that the mother has moved frequently, has been in a series of physically abusive relationships, and had been admitted to the behavioral-medicine unit of a hospital at the time the petitions were filed. However, the mother argues that the testimony shows that, at that time of trial, “she has ‘gotten it together’ without any help from [the maternal grandmother]” and that “she is more stable than she has been for most of her life.” Aside from citation to general propositions of law, the mother's argument rests on a citation to V.W. v. G.W., 990 So.2d 414, 417 (Ala.Civ.App.2008) .
The trial court did not make specific findings of the fact supporting the adjudications of dependency.
The mother argues that the evidence shows that, at the time of the disposition, she had a job and transportation, was receiving pastoral counseling and medication, and was not currently in a romantic relationship. The testimony presented by the mother at trial, if believed by the trial court, would indicate that the mother made progress in gaining stability during the pendency of the litigation. However, the trial court could have found from the mother's own testimony that she had several remaining issues affecting her ability to provide for the care, support, and education of the children and to discharge her responsibilities to and for the children. See § 12–15–102(8), Ala.Code 1975. At the time of disposition, the mother testified that she had moved away from Alabama to Louisiana and had been living in a one-bedroom garage apartment for approximately seven months. She testified that she had exhausted all of her funds to purchase a car. She...
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