IN RE CHELSIA J. ET AL. - Articles

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Posted by: Amelia Ferrell Knisely on Jan 11, 2016

Head Comment: The opinion was originally published Dec. 16. Today the court published corrections on pages 9 and 10 for the opinion.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Robert R. Asbury, Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Fleesha J.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Kathryn A. Baker, 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 Chelsia J. and Jared J., the minor children (“Children”) of Fleesha J. (“Mother”) and Mark F. (“Father”). The Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) on April 28, 2011, upon investigation of the Children’s exposure to controlled substances in the parents’ home. On March 21, 2012, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents. Following a bench trial conducted over the course of four days spanning more than a year’s time, the trial court found that grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of both parents upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) the parents abandoned the Children by failing to provide a suitable home, (2) the parents abandoned the Children by engaging in conduct prior to incarceration that exhibited wanton disregard for the Children’s welfare, (3) the parents failed to substantially comply with the reasonable responsibilities and requirements of the permanency plans, and (4) the conditions leading to the Children’s removal from the home persisted. At that time, however, the court denied the petition based upon its finding that termination was not in the best interest of the Children. DCS subsequently filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment. Following a subsequent hearing, the trial court granted the motion to alter or amend the judgment and terminated the parental rights of both parents upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination was in the best interest of the Children. Mother has appealed.2 We reverse the trial court’s finding that Mother abandoned the Children by engaging in conduct prior to incarceration that exhibited wanton disregard for the Children’s welfare. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother’s parental rights.