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In re Jocelyn L.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

December 16, 2014

IN RE: JOCELYN L.

Session Date November 20, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anderson County No. B3LA214 William Lantrip, Chancellor [1]

David A. Stuart, Clinton, Tennessee, for the appellant, Amanda L. Ronald L.

Grimm and Mary L. Abbott, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, James L.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and, Leslie Curry, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John W. McClarty and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

OPINION

D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE

Background

In August 2012, DCS received a referral alleging that the Child was the victim of sexual abuse by Father. An investigation revealed that the Child had made the disclosures to Mother. At a forensic interview, the Child made disclosures of sexual abuse by Father.

Later in August 2012, DCS filed a petition for a restraining order in the Juvenile Court. Both Mother and Father were named as respondents in the petition. However, the sexual abuse allegations only pertained to Father. Mother was named as a respondent solely for the purpose of requiring Mother not to allow the Child to have any contact with Father.

The Juvenile Court entered an ex parte restraining order and ordered Father to be removed from the Child's home. Mother was ordered not to permit Father to have any contact with the Child. A guardian ad litem was appointed for the Child around this time. Mother and Father proceeded with separate counsel.

After several continuances, an adjudicatory hearing was conducted over four days in May and September 2013.[2] Following the hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order dismissing DCS's petition. The Juvenile Court stated, in relevant part: "The Court finds that while [the] child made disclosures, the Court cannot afford weight to them due to great attachment between Child [and] Mother, such that the proof does not amount to clear [and] convincing evidence and DCS's petition is hereby dismissed."

Neither DCS nor the guardian ad litem appealed the Juvenile Court's decision. Mother, however, now represented by new private counsel, appealed to the Circuit Court for a trial de novo. In October 2013, DCS filed a motion to dismiss Mother's appeal claiming that Mother lacked standing to appeal the Juvenile Court's decision. Mother filed a response to DCS's motion to dismiss, arguing that she was, in fact, aggrieved by the Juvenile Court's decision and was entitled to appeal. Mother, after DCS filed its motion to dismiss, filed an answer and cross-claim in the Circuit Court purportedly to DCS's original petition and against Father.

In October 2013, the Circuit Court held a hearing on DCS's motion to dismiss. The Circuit Court, based on the record and arguments of counsel, dismissed Mother's appeal, stating in relevant part: "That the mother does not having [sic] standing to appeal the Department's Petition from the juvenile court. Therefore, her appeal, and all subsequent pleadings filed in ...


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