IN RE JUDE D. - Articles

All Content


Posted by: Landry Butler on Nov 30, 2016

Head Comment: With Dissenting Opinion by Stafford

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Susanne Lodico, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellants, Karen P. and Thomas S.

Attorneys 2:

Rachel M. Wright, Hixson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Carla D.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and Rachel E. Buckley, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

This is a termination of parental rights case involving Jude D., who was age five at the time of trial. The mother, Carla D. ("Mother"), and the father, Julius D. ("Father"), have three children currently involved in termination actions: Chance D., Gabriella D., and Jude D. (collectively, "the Children"). Mother and Father have an extensive history with child welfare agencies and the courts in both Tennessee and Georgia. In March 2012, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court ("juvenile court") granted temporary legal custody of the Children to the Tennessee Department of Children‘s Services ("DCS"). Upon their placement in DCS custody, the Children were placed in the home of Karen P. and Thomas S. (collectively, "Foster Parents"). DCS did not seek a finding of severe child abuse against Mother in the dependency and neglect action in juvenile court. Foster Parents filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and to adopt Jude D. ("Jude") in the Hamilton County Circuit Court ("trial court") on July 31, 2013. Foster Parents concomitantly filed separate termination of parental rights actions involving Jude‘s two siblings, Gabriella D. ("Gabriella") and Chance D. ("Chance"). Following a bench trial, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had committed severe child abuse against Chance while he was in her custody. The trial court recognized that the determination of severe child abuse against Chance was a ground for termination of Mother‘s parental rights to Jude. The trial court also found, however, that Foster Parents had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that the conditions leading to the removal of the Children persisted or that termination of Mother‘s parental rights was in Jude‘s best interest. The trial court thereby denied the petition to terminate Mother‘s parental rights to Jude. Foster Parents have appealed. We affirm the trial court‘s finding that the statutory ground of severe child abuse was proven by clear and convincing evidence. However, having determined that Foster Parents also proved by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother‘s parental rights was in the best interest of Jude, we reverse the trial court‘s denial of the termination petition. We therefore grant Foster Parents‘ petition for termination of Mother‘s parental rights to Jude. We remand this matter to the trial court for an adjudication regarding Foster Parents‘ petition for adoption.