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In re Dayton R.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 21, 2015

IN RE: DAYTON R., ET AL.

Assigned On Briefs March 25, 2015

Direct Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Henderson County No. 60201C Larry J. Logan, Judge No. W2014-01904-COA-R3-JV

Lloyd R. Tatum, Henderson, Tennessee, for the appellants, Samuel M. and Francis M. Robbie A. M., Lexington, Tennessee. Pro se, appellee. [1]

Dayton R., Cedar Grove, Tennessee, Pro se, appellee. [2]

Brandon O. Gibson, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Kenny Armstrong, J., joined.

OPINION

BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE

I. Facts & Procedural History

The children at issue in this case Dayton R. and Samuel R., were born in 2003 and 2006, respectively. The children were adjudicated dependent and neglected in 2007. The maternal and biological great-grandparents of the children, Samuel M. and Francis M. (hereinafter "Mr. and Mrs. M." or "the great-grandparents"), were awarded temporary custody. The children resided with Mr. and Mrs. M. for the next six years. The biological parents petitioned for custody of the children and were awarded custody in March 2014. The court found no clear and convincing evidence that restoring custody to the biological parents would pose a substantial risk of harm to the children, then ages 11 and 7.

Mr. and Mrs. M. filed a petition for grandparent visitation on March 31, 2014, seeking to establish visitation with the children. The biological parents filed separate responses to the petition, opposing any award of visitation. Among other things, the children's mother asserted that great-grandparents do not have standing to seek grandparent visitation pursuant to Tennessee's grandparent visitation statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-306, and therefore, she argued, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the great-grandparents' claim.

The trial court held a hearing on the petition in June 2014. On September 9, 2014, the court entered an order finding that "as great-grandparents, [Mr. and Mrs. M.] do not fall within the definition of grandparents under Tennessee law." As such, the trial court concluded that the great-grandparents lacked standing to petition the court for visitation rights, and the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to award visitation to Mr. and Mrs. M. Upon dismissal of their petition, Mr. and Mrs. M. timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court.

II. Issues Presented

Mr. and Mrs. M. present the following issues, as slightly re-worded, for review on appeal:

1. Whether the trial court erred in denying the petition for grandparent visitation because Mr. and Mrs. M. are great-grandparents;
2. Whether the trial court erred in refusing visitation between Mr. and Mrs. M. and their great-grandchildren when substantial harm to the children ...

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