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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Winter 2014

standing and jurisdiction, and awarded scheduled visitation for the adoptive mother. Th e biological mother appealed following a denial by operation of law of the biological mother’s motion to alter, amend, or vacate, and fi led a mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court regarding the denial of her motions to stay enforcement of the judgment (i.e., suspend visitation). Th e Legal Aid Society of Birmingham, as Guardian ad Litem for the children, fi led a brief with the Court of Civil Appeals supporting the arguments of the adoptive mother, though it was not acknowledged in the opinion. Th e Court of Civil Appeals granted the stay of the Family Court’s order of visitation, and acknowledged that Its ruling “overrides the trial court’s apparent determination” that “it would be in the best interests of the children to allow continuing contact” with the adoptive mother, who “had acted as a ‘second parent’ of the children since their births,” and noted It was “not unsympathetic “to the plight of the adoptive mother and, more importantly, the children,” but stated It “cannot give eff ect to a void judgment or make alternative legal arguments for the adoptive mother that might enable her to gain visitation rights.” Attorneys for both parties have disagreed with the Court’s reasoning in the media. Sara Senesac, trial attorney for the biological mother, though pleased with the ruling, cited her client’s argument about lack of Georgia residency, and called the Court’s attack on “the validity of same sex adoption under Georgia law . . . unnecessary given these facts.” Traci Vella of Vella & King, who handled the appeal, called the Alabama Court’s determination of Georgia law “incomprehensible,” and said, “Th is is a horribly sad day for children, who can now be permanently ripped away from a parent who has raised them from birth, for no other reason than a parent has found a new spouse.” Breauna Peterson, the Guardian ad Litem for the children at the trial and appellate levels, says she is “deeply saddened” by the decision, which “aff ects the adoptive mother’s ability to remain in contact with the children she has raised from birth and will have an undeniable negative impact on the emotional well-being of her three children,” and noted that she “believes the appellate court will correct its misinterpretation of Georgia law and restore the children’s relationship with their parent.” Th e biological mother is represented by Randy Nichols of Massey, Stotser & Nichols on appeal, and the adoptive mother is represented by Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, who fi led the original Alabama petition. Th e children are represented by Tobie Smith of Legal Aid Society of Birmingham as well as Breauna Peterson. Th e mandamus to the Alabama Supreme Court remains pending, and a petition for writ of certiori has not yet been fi led, though rehearing deadlines had not passed at press time for this article. G Domestic Law SECURITY FOR YOUR FAMILY • Up to $200,000 of Term Life coverage • Only four health questions and no medical exams or tests For more information call 1-888-474-1959 Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Winter 2014 33


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Winter 2014
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