IN RE HALEY S. ET AL. - Articles

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Posted by: Landry Butler on Mar 29, 2018

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Whitney H. Raque, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, Heather P.

Attorneys 2:

Carl R. Moore, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellee, Michael S.

J. Leo Richardson, III, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellees, Leroy W. and Tammie W.

Judge(s): FRIERSON

This appeal arises from a juvenile proceeding wherein the mother, Heather P. (“Mother”) filed a petition to modify her visitation with her two children, Haley S. and Leila P. (“the Children”), who were eleven and four years old, respectively, at the time of trial. Haley’s father, Michael S. (“Father”), remained incarcerated during the entire action. Leila’s father was deceased prior to the commencement of this proceeding. The paternal grandparents of Leila, Leroy W. and Tammie W. (“Grandparents”), who had legal custody of both children, subsequently filed a counter-petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights to the Children and Father’s parental rights to Haley. The magistrate of the juvenile court entered a pre-trial order, stating, inter alia, that if Grandparents were successful in terminating the parents’ rights, Mother’s petition to modify visitation would be dismissed but that if Grandparents were not successful, Mother’s petition would be scheduled for hearing. The magistrate’s order further allowed Mother to amend her original petition to modify visitation. Following a bench trial regarding the termination action, the trial court granted Grandparents’ petition to terminate the parents’ parental rights to the Children. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that the conditions leading to the removal of the children from Mother’s custody still persisted. The trial court further found that grounds existed regarding Father because he had abandoned Haley by failing to visit her and because he had failed to establish parentage. Mother appealed the trial court’s decision. Because no adjudicatory hearing order exists in the record finding the Children to be dependent, neglected, or abused, we reverse the ground of persistence of conditions as to Mother. We further determine that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact to support its determination that statutory grounds for termination existed regarding Father. Therefore, we vacate the portion of the judgment terminating Father’s parental rights and remand to the trial court for sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(k) (2017).