Juvenile Court May Retain Jurisdiction Over Dependency Proceedings After Filing Of A Motion Pursuant To Rule 41(a)(1)

Ex parte C.J., [Ms. 2200617, 2200623, July 23, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2021). The court unanimously (Thompson, P.J.; Moore, Edwards, and Hanson, JJ., concur; Fridy, J., concurs in the result) denies mandamus petitions in which the Mother sought to vacate all orders in dependency proceedings entered by the Jefferson Juvenile Court subsequent to a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 41(a) Ala. R. Civ. P. by T.P., the aunt of the children and the party who initiated the dependency proceedings. The court first notes that “our supreme court has held that the timely filing of a notice of dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1), and this court in Ex parte Foushee [902 So. 2d 73, 74 (Ala. Civ. App. 2004)] has held that a plaintiff’s oral motion to dismiss, before the defendant has filed an answer or a motion for a summary judgment results in the immediate dismissal of the case and deprives the trial court of jurisdiction to conduct further proceedings in the case.” Ms. *21. However, the court concludes

[I]n a case in which a dependency petition has been filed, the juvenile court has conducted hearings at which the respondents have appeared, and the juvenile court has entered orders removing the children from the custody of the respondents and placing the children in the temporary custody of another person, logic and the duty of the courts to protect children dictate that the juvenile court, considering its statutory duty, has the authority to conduct a hearing to determine whether the interests of the children are being protected by the dismissal of the case. These unique circumstances militate in favor of authorizing a juvenile court to conduct a hearing to address a petitioner’s motion to dismiss.

Ms. *23.

Accordingly, the court holds that “the juvenile court could have recognized that the children had a substantial interest in the matters and that, in such circumstances, it was required to proceed in a manner so as to protect the children from substantial risk of harm. Therefore, we cannot conclude that the juvenile court exceeded its discretion by failing to dismiss the underlying cases.” Ms. *26.

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