IN RE ZAYNE P. - Articles

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Posted by: Landry Butler on Apr 30, 2018

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Laura A. Keeton, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellants, Charles A. and Misha A.

Attorneys 2:

Chad A. Cox, Paris, Tennessee, for the appellee, Vicky B.

Robert W. Hawley, Paris, Tennessee, for the appellee, Steven P.

Jasmine McMackins, Paris, Tennessee, Guardian Ad Litem.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; W. Derek Green, Assistant Attorney General, for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Judge(s): CLEMENT

This appeal arises from a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights filed by the foster parents. The Department of Children’s Services removed the child from the mother and father’s custody and placed the child in the custody of the foster parents because, shortly after the child was born, the child tested positive for drugs. On the petition of DCS, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected based on the finding that the parents committed severe child abuse. Thereafter, DCS filed a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights based, in part, on the records provided by the case worker. Subsequently, DCS determined that the case worker had falsely reported that the parents were noncompliant with the permanency plan. Following an inquiry that revealed the parents were in substantial compliance with the permanency plan and that all drug tests were negative, DCS dismissed its petition with court approval. Thereafter, the foster parents commenced a new and independent action to terminate mother and father’s parental rights; the petition also named DCS as a respondent. The foster parents subsequently filed a motion to compel joinder of DCS as a co-petitioner on the ground that Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(h)(1)(D) mandated that DCS file a petition to terminate parental rights if a juvenile court has made a finding that the parents committed severe child abuse. DCS opposed the motion on the ground that it had the discretion not to pursue termination of parental rights if a compelling reason existed. The trial court denied the motion, and the case proceeded to trial on the foster parents’ petition. Following trial, the court found that the foster parents proved severe child abuse by clear and convincing evidence; however, the court determined that termination of the parents’ rights was not in the child’s best interests and dismissed the petition. This appeal followed. Having determined that the foster parents failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the parents’ rights was in the child’s best interests, we affirm.