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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on May 29, 2013

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Joseph M. Viglione, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, David G.

Attorneys 2:

Margaret Beebe Held, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Paul M.

Michael J. Stanuszek, Knoxville, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

This is a termination of parental rights case involving two minor children, Victoria G. and Ethan G. (“the Children”). The Children were born during the marriage of David G. (“Father”) and Rachel M. (“Mother”). When Father and Mother divorced in 2004, Mother was awarded primary custody of the Children. In 2005, Mother suffered a recurrence of cancer. She and the Children subsequently moved in with her sister, Amanda M., and her sister’s husband, Paul M. When Mother died on October 6, 2005, Amanda M. obtained custody of the Children the following day. Father did not seek custody of the Children until April 2006. The parties engaged in protracted litigation, during which Father was allowed varying types of visitation. In September 2010, Father was granted progressively expanding visitation with the Children, designed toward increasing co-parenting in frequency and consistency over time. The visits did not go well, however, and the Children eventually refused to go with Father. The last attempted exchange, occurring on September 9, 2011, resulted in an incident wherein Father was arrested for assault. Father did not seek visitation with the Children after that date. Paul M. filed a petition seeking to terminate Father’s parental rights on January 26, 2012, based upon the statutory ground of abandonment by willful failure to visit and support. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition after finding clear and convincing evidence that Father had willfully failed to visit the Children for at least four months preceding the filing of the petition, and upon determining that termination was in the Children’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm.