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An orphan is a vulnerable child left without adequate familial provision and protection from evil. There is real evil in the world – evil that will always seek to abuse, neglect, and rob vulnerable children. Orphan Law is that body of law that relates to addressing and alleviating the affliction of these vulnerable children.
This week, Alabama’s appellate courts released two new opinions that affect orphans and their families.
The first case of the week is A.H. v. B.C., 2120877 (April 3, 2015), drafted by Judge Moore. This decision arises out of the same facts and circumstances of Ex parte B.C., 1130250 (January 30, 2015), wherein the Court of Civil Appeals (Civs) held that, when the mother of a child brings a TPR petition against the father, there is no need to assert dependency.
The issue in the case at hand deals with the father’s argument that the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the mother did not file her TPR petition in compliance with § 12-15-120, Code of Alabama. Said code section requires that at a TPR petition, when alleged in conjunction with a dependency allegation, must be filed with the juvenile court intake officer.
The Civs held that the mother’s failure to comply with the filing requirements of § 12-15-120, did not divest the juvenile court of subject matter jurisdiction. This decision is another helpful installment for the orphan-care community in understanding the appropriate procedure for the termination of parental rights of absent fathers, when initiated by the child’s mother.
The second case of the week is S.S. v. T.Y. and D.Y., 2140045 (April 3, 2015), drafted by Presiding Judge Thompson. The facts of this case are definitely esoteric, but the issue and result are far too common. The juvenile court took custody of two of the mother’s children away from her and gave them to the petitioners. That’s basically the entirety of the pertinent details that the Civs give us in this case, however, this is the second time the case has been before the Civs. The initial case was affirmed with no opinion on September 12, 2014, and styled as T.Y. v. S.S..
The issue the Civs resolved in this round of proceedings was whether the mother timely filed her Notice of Appeal. Pursuant to juvenile law, a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 14 days of the entry or denial of a post-judgment motion (also, remember to keep in mind that a post-judgment motion is denied by operation of law after 14 days in the juvenile court). In the case at hand, the mother filed three post-judgment motions. However, the Civs held that the last two post-judgment motions were repetitive and basically identical to the first. Therefore, they declined to treat the last two post-judgment motions as new motions for the purpose of calculating the time for appeal.
As a result, the Civs dismissed the appeal as being untimely filed. This case is a reminder to orphan-care advocates to be persnickety about timelines—especially the appeal timelines, which can be unforgiving. This case also gives a window into the unique situation where a party files multiple post-judgment motions.
Photo by libertygrace0.