IN RE MATTHEW T. - Articles

All Content

Posted by: Chandra Williams on Apr 21, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Brandon J. Cox, Smithville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Matthew T. 1

Attorneys 2:

Gayla C. Hendrix, Smithville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Erica T. Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter, and Rebekah A. Baker, Senior Counsel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Jean Ann Hall, Hartsville, Tennessee, guardian ad litem for the minor, Matthew T.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

The parents of a son born in May 2013 appeal the termination of their parental rights. In December 2013, the son was removed from his parents’ custody after law enforcement discovered that he was living in a home with two methamphetamine labs. After a hearing, the juvenile court entered an order finding that the son was dependent and neglected and that the parents had committed severe abuse as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1- 102(b)(21). Parents did not appeal this order. Three permanency plans were created, all of which required the parents to maintain contact with the Department of Children’s Services, notify the Department of changes in their address or phone number, submit to and test negative on unannounced drug screens, and pay child support. In August 2014, the Department filed a petition for termination of parental rights. The trial court conducted a hearing, which the parents did not attend even though they knew of the date. An employee of the Department was the only witness to testify. She testified that the parents had not updated their contact information, maintained contact with the Department, or engaged in much visitation with their son. In addition, the father did not complete a drug treatment plan, admitted to using illegal drugs, and tested positive for drugs. After the hearing, the court found that the following grounds for termination had been established by clear and convincing evidence: abandonment, substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan, persistence of conditions, and severe abuse. The court also found that termination of parental rights was in the son’s best interest. Parents appealed. In accordance with In re Carrington H., --- S.W.3d ---, No. M2014-00453-SC- R11-PT, 2016 WL 819593, at *12-13 (Tenn. Jan. 29, 2016), we have reviewed the trial court’s findings related to all of the grounds for termination and the best interest of the child and conclude that termination is appropriate based on abandonment, substantial noncompliance, severe abuse, and persistence of conditions. We also hold that termination is in the son’s best interest. Accordingly, we affirm.