Areas of Practice

Click on any of the links below to get more information on the areas of practice that Gabrielle N. Helix concentrates in.

Information Regarding Dependency Actions filed by the Department of Human Resources

Information Regarding Dependency Actions

Madison County Department of Human Resources:
 256.535.4696 (Switchboard)

 Guardian Ad Litem: A licensed attorney, appointed by the Court, who represents the best interests of the child or children who are the subject of the action.

Attorney(s) for the Parents
 A licensed attorney (or attorneys), either appointed by the Court or retained by the individual parties, who are licensed to practice law in the state of Alabama.

Other possible participants:
 Grandparents, or other relatives, who could intervene in the Dependency Action for possible custody. 

Types of Hearings

 Adjudicatory Hearing:  The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether or not a child is dependent and in need of care or supervision.  This hearing is where the allegations of the petition must be proven to the court by clear and convincing evidence.  Hearsay is not admissible, and the rules of evidence and procedure strictly apply.

 Disposition Hearing:  The purpose of this hearing is to determine what to do with the child who has been adjudicated dependent.  This hearing may be conducted the same day as the adjudicatory hearing or may be set at a later date.  Hearsay is allowed at this hearing, and documentary evidence may be received.  This is the most common hearing where a court report will be submitted.  All subsequent review hearings and permanency hearings are conducted in the nature of a disposition hearing.

 Permanency Hearing:  The purpose of this hearing, which must be held within 12 months of the date the child is removed from the home and every 12 months thereafter, is to determine the permanency plan for the child.

 Review Hearings:  The purpose of these hearings, which must be held at least every six months while the child is in out-of-home care, beginning at least six months after the child is removed from the home, is for the court to check on the status of the child; and, if held after the permanency hearing, will ensure that all parties are cooperating and working toward the stated goals in the permanency plan adopted by the court.

 Evidentiary or Special Hearing:  These hearings are scheduled as requested by the parties or as determined by the Court.

 Family Drug Court Hearing:  Hearing set before the Family Drug Court Judge on referral and acceptance to the same.

Juvenile/District Court Judges   Courtroom
Judge Ruth Ann Hall      Rm 529, 5th fl
Judge Allison Austin     Rm 306, 3rd fl
Judge Dick Richardson    Rm 600, 6th fl
Judge Martha Lynn Sherrod    Rm 800, 8th fl
Referee Catherine Callaway    Rm 604, 6th fl

 Counseling:  Family law cases are extremely emotional.  For that reason, clients should consider seeking counseling before and/or after the legal process.  In some cases, counseling is requested by DHR and can even be court ordered.  Whatever the case, if you are need of assistance, do not hesitate to ask for help. 

 DHR:  Individualized Service Plans (ISP) are plans that the Department has for the family.  The plans are developed through meetings usually held at the Department.  In some cases, the meetings can occur right after court, without any advance notice.  This meeting sets forth the goals for the family as a whole, and sometimes for each individual involved with your case.  Please arrive on time to these meetings and plan for the meeting to last an hour.

 Appointments with your Attorney:  Please make an appointment with your attorney if you need to talk for more than “just a minute”.  Dropping off paperwork or other types of information can be done without an appointment; however, it’s always advisable to call ahead to make sure someone is available to handle the delivery.  Everything discussed in an attorney’s office is confidential.  Attorneys are duty bound not to divulge any information about your case to anyone else, no matter the relationship to you.

 Parenting:  Use all of your visitation time.  Do not arrive late to any regularly scheduled visitation with the children.  Do NOT cancel visitation unless it is a bona fide emergency.  Do not bring anyone else with you to visitation, unless you have permission from DHR.  Boyfriends, girlfriends, or other non-related individuals should not be brought to visitation as this is time for you and your child.
 During the time that you are separated from your child (children) use it wisely to either seek and ultimately gain employment, or to seek mental or physical help if necessary.  You can also use this time to make sure the physical facilities of your home are child-oriented – adequate room, privacy and safety are sometimes concerns of the DHR worker and the Guardian Ad Litem.
 Gather all medical, school and health records for your child and deliver them to DHR.

Contact Information:
 Gabrielle N. Helix
 2117 Whitesburg Drive
 Huntsville, Alabama 35801
 256.489.0595/256.489.0596 (fax)
Office Hours:  Business hours are from 9am to 5pm
Legal Assistant:  Susannah Torres
Telephone conferences:  Your telephone call will certainly be accepted during business hours.  If, however, you get a recording, it means that we are either out of the office or on the other lines assisting other clients.  Please leave a message and your call will be returned.  If the attorney is in conference or in court, the legal assistant may be able to help you.  Please relate any and all information that is necessary to determine whether your call is an emergency or can be returned at a later time.  If it is an emergency, assistance will be sought immediately.

1.  To keep you informed of the progress of your case, we will provide you with copies of all pleadings and correspondence that are either prepared or received by our office which are pertinent to your case.  Sometimes correspondence occurs during the normal course of a case that you will not receive a copy of; ie, checking on court dates, checking in with other parties, or updates from/to DHR.  If that occurs, copies of these will be in your file and you may view that correspondence at the office.
2. Tell us all we need to know.  Keep a diary.  Use your best judgment.  We cannot help without all the facts.  If you are nervous or afraid to tell us, we understand.  If it helps to write things out, then do so.  You are our “eyes and ears” for information.  Please keep us informed so we can help you.
3. Answer all direct questions as accurately as possible.  If you do not know, do not be afraid to say so.  For example, many fathers know little about birth dates, school problems, or health records of their children (yes, there are exceptions!); and, many women who are “stay at home moms” know little about mortgages and taxes! 
4. As problems or questions arise, call the office and state the problem or question to either the attorney or the legal assistant.  Hopefully, they will have an immediate answer or solution or they will arrange to get back to you.  Do not call and leave a message such as “urgent” or “very important”.  This is futile, time-consuming, and non-productive.  If you find yourself calling frequently, you may want to list your questions and save several for one call.

WHAT IF…my attorney is friendly with the “other-side”?
 Attorneys in a particular area are likely to have many cases against each other over the years.  They are also likely to attend the same professional seminars and may even do charitable work together.  Because they deal with each other day in and day out, camaraderie may develop.  Your attorney and the “other-side” may exchange pleasantries, share a joke, or even have lunch together.  This does not mean the attorneys are being disloyal to their clients.  Remember, your attorney is professionally committed to achieve the best result for you given the facts and the law applicable to your case.  This does not mean that he or she must dislike the other side, be hostile, rude or mean to the other side.  Such behavior frequently harms, rather than helps, your case.

WHAT IF…I have doubt about the attorney handling my case?
 First, you should raise any issue of concern with your attorney.  Explain the concern from your perspective.  Don’t wait until you are angry or upset.  Bring your concerns to your counsel’s attention as soon as they occur.


Terms as Defined by Alabama Code §12-15-1
ADULT  An individual 19 years of age or older.
AFTERCARE  Conditions and supervision as the court orders after release of legal custody.
CHILD  An individual under the age of 18, or under 19 years of age and before the juvenile court for a matter arising before that individual's 18th birthday.
CHILD IN NEED OF SUPERVISION  A child who does any of the following:
a. Being subject to compulsory school attendance is habitually truant from school.
b. Disobeys the reasonable and lawful demands of the child's parents, guardian, or other custodian and is beyond their control.
c. Has committed an offense established by law but not classified as criminal or one applicable only to children.
d. In any of the foregoing, is in need of care or rehabilitation.
COURT or JUVENILE COURT  The juvenile division of the district court or the juvenile division of the circuit court, as established by this chapter.
a. Who, for any reason is destitute, homeless, or dependent on the public for support; or
b. Who is without a parent or guardian able to provide for the child's support, training, or education; or
c. Whose custody is the subject of controversy; or
d. Whose home, by reason of neglect, cruelty, or depravity on the part of the parent, parents, guardian, or other person in whose care the child may be, is an unfit and improper place for the child; or
e. Whose parent, parents, guardian, or other custodian neglects or refuses, when able to do so or when such service is offered without charge, to provide or allow medical, surgical, or other care necessary for the child's health or well-being; or
f. Who is in a condition or surroundings or is under improper or insufficient guardianship or control as to endanger the morals, health, or general welfare of the child; or
g. Who has no proper parental care or guardianship; or
h. Whose parent, parents, guardian, or custodian fails, refuses, or neglects to send the child to school in accordance with the terms of the compulsory school attendance laws of this state; or
i. Who has been abandoned by the child's parents, guardian, or other custodian; or
j. Who is physically, mentally, or emotionally abused by the child's parents, guardian, or other custodian or who is without proper parental care and control necessary for the child's well-being because of the faults or habits of the child's parents, guardian, or other custodian or their neglect or refusal, when able to do so, to provide them; or
k. Whose parents, guardian, or other custodian are unable to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child; or
1. Who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of the law; or
m. Who for any other cause is in need of the care and protection of the state; and
n. In any of the foregoing, is in need of care or supervision.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM  A licensed attorney appointed by a court to defend or represent a child in any action to which the child may be a party.
JUDGE  Judge of the juvenile court as prescribed by this chapter.
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER  Any person, however denominated, who is authorized by law to exercise the police powers of the state or local governments.
LEGAL CUSTODIAN  A person, agency, or department, other than a parent or legal guardian, to whom legal custody of the child has been given by court order or who is acting in loco parentis.
LEGAL CUSTODY  A legal status created by court order which vests in a custodian the right to have physical custody of the child and to determine where and with whom the child shall live within the state and the right and duty to protect, train, and discipline the child and to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing, education, and ordinary medical care, all subject to the powers, rights, duties, and responsibilities of the guardian of the person of the child and subject to any residual parental rights and responsibilities. An individual granted legal custody shall exercise the rights and responsibilities personally unless otherwise authorized by the juvenile court.
MINOR  An individual who is under the age of 19 years and who is not a "child" within the meaning of this chapter.
MULTIPLE NEEDS CHILD  A child coming to the attention of the court or one of the entities listed herein who is at imminent risk of out-of-home placement or a placement in a more restrictive environment, as a result of the conditions of emotional disturbance, behavior disorder, mental retardation, mental illness, dependency, chemical dependency, educational deficit, lack of supervision, delinquency, or physical illness or disability, or any combination thereof, and whose needs require the services of two or more of the following entities: Department of Youth Services, public school system (services for exceptional needs), Department of Human Resources, Department of Public Health, juvenile court probation services, or Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.
PROTECTIVE SUPERVISION  A legal status created by court order following an adjudication of dependency whereby a child is permitted to remain in the child's home subject to supervision and to return to the court for violation of protective supervision at any time during the period of protective supervision.
RESIDENTIAL FACILITY  A dwelling, other than a detention or shelter care facility, providing living accommodations, care, treatment, and maintenance for children, including institutions, foster family homes, group homes, half-way houses, and forestry camps, and, where not operated by a public agency, licensed, or approved to provide the care.
RESIDUAL PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES  Those rights and responsibilities remaining with the parent after the transfer of legal custody or guardianship of the person, including, but not necessarily limited to, the right of visitation, the right to consent to adoption, the right to determine religious affiliation, and the responsibility for support.
SHELTER CARE  The temporary care of children in group homes, foster care, or other nonpenal facilities.


View the Ethical Statement

Gabrielle N. Helix
Attorney At Law

2117 Whitesburg Drive
Huntsville, AL 35801

T: 256.489.0595
F: 256.489.0596

No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers