IN RE LENA G. - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on May 26, 2017

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Joseph O. McAfee, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Teddy G.

Attorneys 2:

Robert Black, Kingsport, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sherry G.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and Brian A. Pierce, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Rachel Ratliff, Johnson City, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem.

Michelle Caggiano, Johnson City, Tennessee, Attorney Ad Litem.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

This is a termination of parental rights case involving the child, Lena G. (“the Child”), who was fifteen years of age at the conclusion of trial. On October 8, 2013, the Washington County Juvenile Court (“trial court”) granted temporary legal custody of the Child to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”). The Child was immediately placed in foster care, where she has remained since that date. Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order on June 11, 2014, adjudicating the Child dependent and neglected in the care of the parents. On November 19, 2014, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Child’s mother, Sherry G. (“Mother”), and her father, Teddy G. (“Father”). The trial court admitted Mother’s hospital records as an exhibit during trial over her objection. Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child after determining by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the parents failed to provide a suitable home for the Child, (2) the parents failed to substantially comply with the requirements of the permanency plans, (3) the conditions that led to the removal of the Child from the parents’ custody still persisted, and (4) Mother was mentally incompetent to adequately care for the Child. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Both Mother and Father have appealed. Having determined that the Child had not been removed from the parents’ home for six months by court order when the petition to terminate parental rights was filed, we reverse the trial court’s ruling regarding the statutory ground of persistence of conditions as to both parents. We conclude that the trial court erred in admitting Mother’s hospital records but determine this error to be harmless. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Child.