Court of Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/10/2016
Format: 02/10/2016
In re M.A.P. et al.
E2014-02413-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Randy M. Kennedy

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children's Services (DCS) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of A.C.P. (Mother) with respect to her three minor children, ages twenty-two months to six years at the time of trial. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of grounds. The court found the same quantum of evidence supporting the conclusion that termination of Mother‟s rights is in the children's best interest. Mother appeals. As modified, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 01/29/16
In re Donna R.
M2015-00629-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy K. Barnes

Father of a child who was determined to be dependent and neglected shortly after her birth had his parental rights terminated on the grounds of abandonment by an incarcerated parent – failure to support; failure to provide a suitable home and wanton disregard; failure to substantially comply with the requirements of the permanency plan; and persistence of conditions. Father appeals, asserting that the evidence does not sustain the trial court’s findings relative to those grounds as well as the holding that termination was in the child’s best interest. Father failed to appeal or argue one of the grounds for termination and, consequently, has waived that issue; the ground is thereby final and we decline to review the other grounds. Upon our review of the record, there is clear and convincing evidence that termination of Father’s rights is in the child’s best interest.
     

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/29/16
In re Makendra E.
W2015-01374-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha Brasfield

This is a termination of parental rights case. The child at issue in this case was placed in foster care at age two. When the child was ten years old, the child‘s foster parents filed a petition in Dyer County Chancery Court seeking to terminate the parental rights of the child‘s parents and to adopt the child. The trial court entered an order terminating the parental rights of the child‘s mother and father and granting the foster parents‘ petition to adopt the child. The mother has appealed the termination of her parental rights on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to visit in the four months prior to the filing of the petition to terminate her parental rights. The mother also appeals the trial court‘s finding that termination of her parental rights is in the child‘s best interest. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 01/27/16
In re Aaliyah E
E2015-00602-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dwaine B. Thomas

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Aaliyah E., the minor child (“the Child”) of Wanda M. (“Mother”) and Christopher E. (“Father”). The Child was taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) on November 19, 2013, upon investigation of the Child’s lack of legal guardianship while the parents were incarcerated. On October 30, 2014, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that statutory grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of both parents upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the parents abandoned the Child by failing to provide a suitable home, (2) the parents failed to substantially comply with the reasonable responsibilities and requirements of the permanency plans, and (3) the conditions leading to the Child’s removal from the home persisted. As to Father, the court also found by clear and convincing evidence that prior to incarceration, he had abandoned the Child by showing wanton disregard for the Child’s welfare. The court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Mother and Father have each appealed. Having determined that, as DCS concedes, Mother was incarcerated during the entire applicable four-month statutory period following the Child’s removal into protective custody, we reverse the trial court’s finding regarding the ground of abandonment through failure to provide a suitable home as to Mother only. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 01/26/16
In re Saliace P., et al.
W2015-01191-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jason L. Hudson

This case involves the termination of a mother's parental rights to her three daughters. The children were previously adjudicated dependent and neglected due to physical abuse of the children by the mother's boyfriend. After the children were in foster care for about a year, the Department of Children's Services filed a petition to terminate the mother's parental rights on several grounds. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that three grounds for termination were proven and that termination was in the best interest of the children. The mother appeals. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings. We affirm the termination of the mother's parental rights.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 01/26/16
In re Aiden M., et al.
E2015-01241-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brad Lewis Davidson

This is an appeal by Amanda P. from an order terminating her parental rights to her two minor children, Aiden M. and Kaidence M. The order terminating the appellant's parental rights was entered on May 5, 2015. The Notice of Appeal was not filed until June 26, 2015, more than (30) days from the date of entry of the final order. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 01/08/16
In re Martavious B. et al.
M2015-01144-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy R. Barnes

This appeal arises from the termination of Father’s parental rights on two grounds, severe child abuse and persistence of conditions, and the finding that termination of his parental rights was in the best interests of his children. Father appeals the trial court’s findings of persistence of conditions and that it was in the best interests of the children to terminate his parental rights; however, Father does not appeal the trial court’s finding of severe child abuse. Because Father did not appeal the ground of severe child abuse, the trial court’s finding on that ground is final. Only one statutory ground need be found for termination; therefore, the dispositive issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in finding that it was in the best interests of the children to terminate Father’s parental rights. The evidence in the record clearly and convincingly established that it was in the best interests of the children to terminate Father’s parental rights. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights.
 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 12/30/15
In re Rainee M.
E2015-00491-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

In this action, a minor child’s foster parents petitioned to adopt the child and terminate the parental rights of her biological father. A previous action seeking to terminate the father’s parental rights had been filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) in a different court. The prior case resulted in termination of the father’s parental rights, but the ruling was reversed on appeal. The foster parents filed the instant action during the pendency of the appeal in the first matter. The father filed a motion to dismiss the instant petition, which the trial court denied, proceeding to conduct a trial on the merits. Following the trial, the court took the matter under advisement and subsequently entered an order terminating the father’s parental rights. The father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/30/15
In re Kyah H. et al.
E2015-00806-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Erwin

Marshall H. (“Father”) appeals the judgment of the Juvenile Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) terminating his parental rights to the minor children, Kyah H., Marshall C., and Jhazaria T. (collectively “the Children”), on the grounds of abandonment by wanton disregard pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1) and 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv), and severe child abuse pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4). We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court's findings made by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination were proven and that termination was in the best interest of the Children, and we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/23/15
In re: Raven S., et al
M2014-00789-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Scott Rosenberg

Mother and Father appeal the termination of their parental rights to two of their children. Upon a finding of dependency and neglect, the juvenile court placed the children in the custody of Mother’s aunt. Subsequently, the Guardian ad Litem petitioned to terminate parental rights. Following a one-day trial, the juvenile court took the matter under advisement. After the elapse of several months, the parents and the Guardian ad Litem filed a motion requesting a decision from the court on the petition to terminate parental rights. The trial court held a hearing on the motion after which it considered additional evidence, primarily related to contact between the children and parents since the previous hearing. At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, the court granted the petition to terminate on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support and visit. The court also found termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to be in the children’s best interest. Mother and Father both appeal the statutory grounds for termination and that termination was in the children’s best interest. Mother and Father also assign error to the trial court reopening proof. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
Carlene Guye Judd, et al v. Carlton Guye, et al.
M2015-00094-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

This shareholder derivative action involves a closely-held corporation founded by the plaintiff’s parents. In 1995, the parents sold all of the outstanding shares to the plaintiff and her brother on credit. A promissory note and security agreement were executed in conjunction with the sale. After managing the corporation with her brother for several years, the plaintiff filed this derivative action against her brother and parents, seeking to recover corporate funds her brother was allegedly using for personal expenses and to dissolve the corporation. During the litigation, the parents gave the plaintiff notice that they were accelerating the promissory note and exercising their right to recover all of the stock sold to her pursuant to the security agreement. The validity of the parents’ efforts to reclaim the stock went to trial along with the other issues. After a two-day trial, the court determined that the parents’ efforts to reclaim ownership of the shares were ineffective, that the plaintiff owned 50% of the outstanding shares, thus she maintained standing to pursue the relief sought in her complaint, and awarded a judgment to the plaintiff on behalf of the corporation. Pursuant to an agreed order, the trial court appointed a receiver to wind up the corporation’s business. During the pendency of this appeal, but prior to oral argument, all of the corporation’s assets were sold, and its business was wound up. In this appeal, the parents contend the trial court erred by granting the plaintiff any relief because the plaintiff lacked standing to pursue her claims after the parents reclaimed all of the plaintiff’s shares. Because the corporation was dissolved and all its assets sold, there is no meaningful relief this court can grant the parents in this appeal; therefore, the issue raised by the parents is no longer justiciable. Because the parents presented no justiciable issue for this court to consider on appeal, the plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for having to defend a frivolous appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand for a calculation of just damages to be awarded to the plaintiff pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 27 1 122.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/21/15
In re B.C.
W2015-00507-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to visit in the four months prior to the filing of the petition to terminate her parental rights. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1) and 36-1-102(1)(A)(i). Mother also appeals the trial court's finding that termination of her parental rights is in the child's best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Obion County Court of Appeals 12/11/15
In re Telisha B., et al.
M2014-02442-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jim T. Hamilton

Three children were removed from their home as a result of a petition filed by the Department of Children’s Services, alleging that the stepfather was guilty of sexual abuse of the oldest child. After the children were removed from the home, it was found that the Mother knew of but had failed to report previous abuse. The children were subsequently adjudicated dependent and neglected; the Department later filed a petition for termination of the Mother’s parental rights. Her parental rights were terminated as to all three children on the grounds of severe child abuse and persistence of conditions. Mother appeals the court’s holding that termination of her parental rights was in her children’s best interests. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 11/30/15
In re C.J.A.H.
E2013-02131-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

T.L. (Father) appeals the trial court's judgment terminating his parental rights with respect to his daughter C.J.A.H. (the Child). The court terminated Father's rights on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to support. It did so after an ex parte hearing at which neither Father nor his attorney was present because neither had received notice of the hearing. After subsequent hearings, where Father was present with counsel and introduced evidence, the trial court entered a second order “reaffirming” its earlier termination decision, relying on proof from both the ex parte hearing and later hearings. We hold that the trial court erred in relying on evidence presented at the ex parte hearing. We further hold that the evidence preponderates against the trial court's finding that Father's failure to pay child support was willful. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the petition for termination with prejudice.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/30/15
In re Analilia R.
E2015-00479-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This appeal concerns the termination of a father’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Hamblen County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Luis M. (“Father”) to the minor child Analilia R. (“the Child”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court found that clear and convincing evidence established the ground of persistent conditions against Father, and that the evidence was clear and convincing that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Father appeals, arguing DCS failed to meet its burden of proof on the ground of persistent conditions. DCS raises its own issue of whether the Juvenile Court erred in failing to find the ground of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court in its entirety.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 11/24/15
In re Hope A.
E2014-02407-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

This appeal concerns a father's parental rights to his daughter. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of the father's parental rights on the statutory ground of abandonment when he willfully failed to visit the child for the four months preceding the filing of the termination petition. The court also found termination of the father's rights was in the best interest of the child. The father appeals. We affirm as modified.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 11/17/15
In re Thomas T.
E2014-02369-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal involves the termination of a father's parental rights to his seven-year-old son. In 2011, the son was adjudicated dependent and neglected due to his parents' substance abuse and was placed in the custody of his paternal great-aunt and great-uncle. In 2013, the same great-aunt and great-uncle filed a petition, as prospective adoptive parents, seeking to terminate the father's parental rights on the statutory grounds of abandonment and persistent conditions. The trial court found that the grounds of abandonment and persistent conditions were proved by clear and convincing evidence. The father appeals. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 11/16/15
In re S. S.-G.
M2015-00055-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Robbie T. Beal

This is a termination of parental rights case. Father/Appellant appeals the termination of his parental rights on grounds of severe child abuse pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(4) and persistence of conditions pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(3). The child was found to be dependent and neglected by order of the Juvenile Court, and Appellant appealed the dependency and neglect finding to the Circuit Court. The ground of persistence of conditions requires a prior finding of dependency and neglect. However, our record does not reflect the status of Appellant’s appeal of the dependency and neglect order. In the absence of proof of full adjudication of the dependency and neglect appeal, we hold that the trial court erred in applying the ground of persistence of conditions. Accordingly, we reverse the termination of Appellant’s parental rights on that ground. Concerning the termination of Appellant’s parental rights on the ground of severe child abuse, the trial court’s order states only that Appellant “has sexually abused the child . . . pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-602 and that this sexual abuse constitutes severe abuse pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-102(b)(2[1]).” Because the code sections that the trial court relies upon contain numerous definitions of “child sexual abuse” and “severe child abuse,” in the absence of specific citation to the exact definition(s) relied upon, we cannot make a meaningful review of the trial court’s decision. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s termination of Appellant’s parental rights on the ground of severe child abuse and remand with instructions for the trial court to make specific findings as required under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(k). 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 11/16/15
In re Kiara S.
E2015-00003-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

Rachel L.S. (“Mother”) and Brandon M.R. (“Step-father”) filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of Paul P. (“Father”) to the minor child Kiara S. (“the Child”). After a trial, the Circuit Court for Sevier County (“the Trial Court”) entered its order dismissing the petition after finding and holding, inter alia, that Mother and Step-father had failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights for abandonment by willful failure to visit or for abandonment by willful failure to support. Mother and Step-father appeal the dismissal of their petition. We find that the evidence in the record on appeal does not preponderate against the Trial Court's findings, and we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 10/29/15
In re Abbigail C.
E2015-00964-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert M. Estep

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights. After a thorough review of the record, we reverse as to the ground of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, vacate as to the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and support by an incarcerated parent, and affirm as to the grounds of abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home and persistent conditions. We also affirm the trial court's finding that termination is in the child's best interest. Accordingly we affirm the termination of Father's parental rights

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 10/21/15
In re Kaedince M. et al.
E2015-00763-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal concerns the termination of parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Knox County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Bridgetta M. (“Mother”) to her minor children Greg S. and Kaedince M. (“the Children”). The Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s parental rights to the Children on the grounds of wanton disregard and severe abuse. Mother appeals to this Court arguing only that it is not in the Children’s best interest for Mother’s parental rights to be terminated. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/19/15
In re Greg S.
E2015-00333-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal concerns the termination of a father’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Knox County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Greg S. (“Father”) to his minor child Greg S., Jr. (“the Child”). The Juvenile Court terminated Father’s parental rights to the Child on the ground of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. Father appeals to this Court arguing only that it is not in the Child’s best interest for Father’s parental rights to be terminated. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/19/15
In re Nolan G., et al.
M2014-01667-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sophia Brown Crawford

Two children came into the custody of the Department of Children’s Services in July 2012 after members of their extended family made allegations that their parents were abusing them. The children were adjudicated dependent and neglected, and subsequently, the Department instituted proceedings to terminate the parental rights of both parents. After a hearing, the court held that the parents had willfully abandoned their children by failure to support, substantial non-compliance, and persistence of conditions. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 10/07/15
In re Jaylah W., et al.
W2015-00993-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry McKenzie

In this termination of parental rights case, Mother appeals the trial court’s findings of the following grounds for termination: abandonment for failure to provide a suitable home; abandonment by an incarcerated parent; abandonment by willful failure to visit; abandonment by willful failure to support; substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans; and the persistence of conditions. Mother also appeals the trial court’s conclusion that termination was in the children’s best interest. We reverse as to the trial court’s findings of abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home and abandonment by an incarcerated parent. We vacate the trial court’s findings of abandonment by willful failure to support and substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans due to the trial court’s failure to make specific findings of fact. We affirm the trial court’s findings of abandonment by willful failure to visit and persistence of conditions. We also affirm the trial court’s finding that termination is in the best interest of the children. Accordingly, we affirm the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Chester County Court of Appeals 10/07/15
In re Jatavious M.
W2015-00865-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Oscar C. Carr, III

This appeal involves the termination of a mother's parental rights to her severely disabled son. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that several grounds for termination exist and that termination is in the child's best interest. On appeal, the mother challenges only the best interest finding. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 10/01/15