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REQUIREMENT OF DISPOSITIONAL HEARING - CUSTODY - RULE 615, ALA. R. EVID. - SEQUESTRATION OF WITNESSES: K.R. V. Z.B.

K.R. v. Z.B., [Ms. 2160463, Sept. 29, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). In this unanimous decision by Judge Moore (Thompson, P.J., Pittman, Thomas, and Donaldson, JJ., concur), the court reverses the juvenile court’s judgment in awarding custody of the minor child to the child’s maternal grandmother. The court held the juvenile court erred in awarding custody of the child to the grandmother without a dispositional hearing. The court rejected the mother’s contention that the juvenile court erred in allowing a juvenile probation officer to testify in an adjudicatory hearing concerning the child’s dependency. The court held that:

“The general rule is that excluding witnesses upon invocation of ‘the rule’ [i.e., Rule 615] is a matter largely left to the trial court’s discretion, and its discretion on the matter will not be disturbed unless it amounts to an abuse of discretion.”

Ms. *5, quoting Faulkner v. Walters, 661 So. 2d 227, 230 (Ala. 1995).

The court noted that appellate courts in Alabama have repeatedly held that it is not an abuse of discretion “to allow a sheriff, police chief, or similarly situated person who will later testify to remain in the courtroom during trial.” Ms. *5-6, quoting Ex parte Lawhorn, 581 So. 2d 1179, 1181 (Ala. 1991).

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