IN RE MAKENZIE L. - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jun 18, 2015

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Gary M. Williams, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Ronda and Eugene Melton.

Attorneys 2:

Connie Reguli, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellees, Adam and Ashley E.

Judge(s): BENNETT

In this termination of parental rights case, paternal great-aunt and great-uncle, who were named ?primary residential parents? of a minor child, filed a petition to terminate the parents‘ rights to their daughter on the grounds of persistence of conditions that led to removal, severe abuse, abandonment by failure to visit, and abandonment by failure to support. The trial court held that grounds did not exist for termination and returned the child to the custody of the parents. We have reviewed the record and affirm the trial court‘s findings with respect to persistent conditions and abandonment by failure to visit. However, we have determined that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of alleged sibling abuse in rendering its decision that the grounds of severe abuse were not proven. In addition, we hold that there is clear and convincing evidence that the parents abandoned the child by failing to support her in the four months preceding the filing of the petition. Finally, we affirm the trial court‘s holding with respect to attorney‘s fees. Therefore, having found that the trial court erred in failing to consider evidence of alleged sibling abuse and that a ground exists for termination, we remand the case for the trial court to consider whether the ground of severe abuse, as defined by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4) is proven by clear and convincing evidence and whether termination of parental rights is in the child‘s best interest.