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ALABAMA COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS
OCTOBER TERM, 2011-2012
In the matter of E.C.N.
Appeal from Franklin Juvenile Court
A.C. appeals from a judgment of the Franklin Juvenile
Court adjudicating E.C.N. dependent, insofar as the juvenile
court, in its judgment, failed to make certain findings of
fact requested by A.C.
We dismiss the appeal for want of
E.C.N. was born in Mexico on February 8, 1993.
his mother, who had been E.C.N.'s primary caregiver, died.
E.C.N.'s father, S.C.N., abandoned E.C.N. and his siblings,
leaving them with no means of support.
E.C.N. lived with an
aunt for a short time; however, she could not provide for
E.C.N. then left his small, impoverished village in
Mexico and crossed the border into the United States.
detained by the United States Citizenship and Immigration
Services ("USCIS") and then released into the custody of his
brother, A.C., while awaiting further action by the USCIS.
A.C. is an adult, legal, permanent resident of the United
States who lives in Russellville.
On January 21, 2011, A.C. petitioned the juvenile court
to declare E.C.N. dependent and to award A.C. custody of
In his brief in support of his dependency petition,
A.C. requested that the juvenile court make certain findings
of fact that would allow E.C.N. to apply to the USCIS for
The juvenile court held hearings on A.C's
dependency petition on February 7, 2011, and on June 20, 2011.
On September 19, 2011, the juvenile court entered a judgment
adjudicating E.C.N. dependent and awarding custody of E.C.N.
to A.C.; however, the judgment did not contain the detailed
findings of fact that were required for E.C.N. to apply for
postjudgment motion requesting that the juvenile court amend
its judgment to include the requested findings of fact; A.C.'s
postjudgment motion was denied by operation of law.
subsequently appealed to this court.
8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) provides, in pertinent part,
that the term "special immigrant" includes
"an immigrant who is present in the United States -"(i) who has been declared dependent
on a juvenile court located in the United
States or whom such a court has legally
committed to, or placed under the custody
of, an agency or department of a State, or
an individual or entity appointed by a
State or juvenile court located in the
United States, and whose reunification with
1 or both of the immigrant's parents is not
viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment,
or a similar basis found under State law."
Before we can address the merits of A.C.'s argument on
appeal -- whether the juvenile court erred by not including
the requested findings of fact in its judgment -- we must
first address the question whether the juvenile court had
subject-matter jurisdiction to enter its judgment. This is so
because jurisdictional matters are of such magnitude that this
court is permitted to notice a lack of jurisdiction ex mero
motu. See Reeves v. State, 882 So. 2d 872, 874 (Ala. Civ. App.
Juvenile courts "exercise exclusive original jurisdiction
of juvenile court proceedings in which a child is alleged ...
to be dependent ...." § 12-15-114(a), Ala. Code 1975.
"dependent child" is defined by the Alabama Code as:
"A child who has been adjudicated dependent by a
juvenile court and is in need of care or supervision
and meets any of the following circumstances:
"1. Whose parent, legal guardian,
subjects the child or any other child in
the household to abuse, as defined in
subdivision (2) of Section 12-15-301 or
neglect as defined in subdivision (4) of
Section 12-15-301, or allows the child to
be so subjected.
"2. Who is without a parent, legal
guardian, or legal custodian willing and
able to provide for the care, support, or
education of the child.
"3. Whose parent, legal guardian,
neglects or refuses, when able to do so or
when the service is offered without charge,
to provide or allow medical, surgical, or
other care necessary for the health or
well-being of the child.
"4. Whose parent, legal guardian,
legal custodian, or other custodian fails,
refuses, or neglects to send the child to
school in accordance with the terms of the
compulsory school attendance laws of this
"5. Whose parent, legal guardian,
legal custodian, or other custodian has
subdivision (1) of Section 12-15-301.
"6. Whose parent, legal guardian,
legal custodian, or other custodian is
unable or unwilling to discharge his or her
responsibilities to and for the child.
"7. Who has been placed for care or
adoption in violation of the law.
"8. Who, for any other cause, is in
need of the care and protection of the
§ 12-15-102(8)a., Ala. Code 1975.
In order for a child to be
definition of the term "child," as defined in connection with
juvenile-court dependency proceedings.
The term "child" is
defined by § 12-15-102(3) thusly: "An individual under the age
of 18 years, or under 21 years of age and before the juvenile
individual's 18th birthday. ..."
Thus, according to the
definition of "child," a person can be adjudicated a dependent
child only if that person is under the age of 18.
In this case, E.C.N. was 17 years old at the time A.C.
filed his dependency petition; however, E.C.N. turned 18 years
old on February 8, 2011, approximately 7 months before the
Once E.C.N. attained the age of 18 without having
been adjudicated a dependent child, he was no longer a child
as that term is defined by § 12-15-102(3); therefore, he was
also no longer capable of being a dependent child as that term
is defined in § 12-15-102(8)a.
Because juvenile courts have
subject-matter jurisdiction in dependency cases only in cases
in which a child is alleged to be dependent, see § 12-15-114,
and because E.C.N. was no longer a child as of February 8,
2011, the juvenile court lost jurisdiction to adjudicate
E.C.N. dependent on that date.2
jurisdiction over A.C.'s dependency petition at the time it
entered its judgment, its judgment is void. Riley v. Pate, 3
So. 3d 835, 838 (Ala. 2008).
"A void judgment will not
support an appeal, and 'an appellate court must dismiss an
attempted appeal from such a void judgment.'" Colburn v.
Colburn, 14 So. 3d 176, 179 (Ala. Civ. App. 2009) (quoting
Vann v. Cook, 989 So. 2d 556, 559 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008)).
Thus, we dismiss A.C.'s appeal, and we instruct the juvenile
court to vacate its September 19, 2011, judgment.
APPEAL DISMISSED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.
Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Bryan, and Moore, JJ.,
We note that once a juvenile court has adjudicated a
child a dependent child, it has continuing jurisdiction over
the dependent child until he or she attains the age of 21
unless the juvenile court has terminated its jurisdiction over
the case. See § 12-17-117, Ala. Code 1975.