IN RE KALIYAH S. ET AL. - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Feb 28, 2014

Head Comment: With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Wilton Marble, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rontez L.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Leslie Curry, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Kaliyah S. and Jaya P. (“the Children”), the minor children of Kayla S. (“Mother”). In November 2010, the Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) and placed in foster care. DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Jaya’s father, Josh P., on November 30, 2010. The petition alleged severe child abuse as the sole ground for termination. DCS filed an amended petition in May 2011, which also named Kaliyah’s father, Rontez L. (“Father”), and alleged that his parental rights should be terminated on the statutory ground of abandonment by wanton disregard. Father was incarcerated at the time the amended petition was filed. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to Mother and Josh P. upon finding that DCS had proven the ground of severe child abuse by clear and convincing evidence. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that Father had abandoned Kaliyah by engaging in conduct exhibiting wanton disregard for her welfare prior to his incarceration. When making its ruling, the trial court concluded that DCS was not required to make reasonable efforts to assist Father in reunification because DCS sufficiently proved the statutory ground of abandonment alleged against him. The court also found that termination of the parental rights of all three respondents was in the Children’s best interest. Father has appealed. We reverse the trial court’s determination that DCS was relieved of the requirement of making reasonable efforts of reunification with regard to Father and remand for further proceedings.