IN RE C.J.A.H. - Articles

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Posted by: Chandra Williams on Nov 30, 2015

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Tiffany M. Campbell, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, T.L.

Attorneys 2:

Kevin B. Wilson, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, T.S.H. and M.D.H.

Judge(s): SUSANO

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.2 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.