Tinkering With an Opinion on Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has modified its opinion in one of its recent cases on juvenile court jurisdiction. I’m not sure it makes much difference except to the parties involved, but let’s at least make sure we’re describing the change.

The case is T.B. v. T.H. and S.H., Case No. 2071009 (Ala. Civ. App. February 27, 2009). I discussed it in a blog post on March 6. The child’s grandparents filed a dependency action in juvenile court. The juvenile court judge, who was also authorized to serve as a circuit judge, “switched hats” in the middle of the case and treated it as a custody case.

The original opinion stated that the juvenile court judge had found that the grandparents did not prove their dependency case. However, the revised opinion, T.B. v. T.H. and S.H., Case No. 2071009 (Ala. Civ. App. April 17, 2009), notes that the juvenile court judge issued a finding that the parties had proven by clear and convincing evidence that the child was dependent. Then the juvenile court proceeded nevertheless to treat the case as one of custody rather than dependency.

The remainder of the court’s opinion follows the same line of reasoning as did the original opinion, that juvenile courts have extremely limited jurisdiction based on dependency, and that absent a finding that a child is dependent the jurisdiction of the juvenile court evaporates. The opinion also results in the same disposition, that the appeal is dismissed because it is based on a void order.

The revised opinion extends the discussion somewhat but does not seem to change anything else in the case that seems to merit attention.