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In re Kane H.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 20, 2015


Session Date: December 10, 2014

Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County No. MCJVCTCV 11-4400 L. Raymond Grimes, Judge

Stacy A. Turner, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellants,

Jimmie H. and Ann H. Jacqueline H., Big Rock, Tennessee, Pro Se.

W. Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which and Andy D. Bennett and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ. joined.



I. Factual and Procedural Background

Jacqueline H.[2] ("Mother") bore Kane H. out of wedlock in August 2010. At Kane's birth, Mother was seventeen years old and in the custody of her adoptive parents, Jimmie and Ann H. ("Grandparents"). Mother is the biological granddaughter of Grandparents. Grandparents adopted Mother as their own child when she was a baby. Grandparents also adopted Mother's sister, Natasha, when she was very young.

After Kane's birth, he and Mother continued to live with Grandparents. Grandparents financially provided for Kane. In November 2011, Mother signed an agreed order granting custody of Kane to Grandparents. Mother signed the agreed order at the office of an attorney selected and paid for by Grandparents. At that time, Mother was eighteen years old and Kane was one. The Juvenile Court for Montgomery County entered the agreed order on November 28, 2011.

In October 2012, Mother attempted to move with Kane to a new home. Relying on the agreed order, Grandparents forced Kane's return with the assistance of law enforcement officers. On November 5, 2012, Mother filed a petition requesting that Kane be returned to her custody because she did not have notice of the content of the agreed order. Mother claimed she thought she was signing a power of attorney for Kane. Mother stated the proposed agreed order granting Grandparents custody was presented to her with a large stack of papers at the attorney's office and that the order was not explained to her. Grandmother testified that Mother knew she was signing an order to transfer custody of Kane. Grandmother stated that Mother transferred custody of Kane "so that [he] would be took [sic] care of."

While Mother's petition was pending, the trial court awarded her temporary parenting time. Initially, Mother visited Kane every other weekend. The court later granted Mother visitation every weekend. From February to April 2013, Mother testified that Kane lived with her full-time while Grandmother was in the hospital. Grandmother disputed that claim. From early August to late September 2013, Mother exercised visitation with Kane every weekend. Mother did not visit Kane from September 22 to October 25, 2013, because Grandparents said Kane was sick. Mother claimed she did not want to endanger the health of her new baby, who was born prematurely in September 2013.

The court conducted a final hearing on October 25 and 28, 2013. Mother testified that she would be able to care for Kane if she was granted full custody. She asserted she had the ability to financially support him and to provide him with a "well-maintained, " stable home, in which the child would have his own room. However, Mother admitted she did not work and was reliant on her fiancé for financial support. She stated that she had $6, 000 in cash saved to support herself and Kane until she could find full-time employment, but she later admitted this was false. She claimed to be Kane's primary caretaker during the time she and Kane lived with Grandparents, so returning Kane to her custody would be in his best interest.

Grandparents alleged that Mother was addicted to prescription drugs and had previously attempted suicide. Mother's twelve-year-old cousin, whom the trial court found to be "very credible, " also testified she saw Mother abusing prescription drugs on one particular occasion in May 2012. Mother's sister testified that Mother had sent her text messages in September 2012 threatening suicide but could not produce the texts.

Mother insisted that she had never had a drug problem. She produced a prescription for Lortab and Xanax and stated she would stop taking the drugs after her short-term prescriptions ended. Mother explained that the Lortab prescription was for pain after the birth of her second child and the Xanax prescription was for panic attacks. Mother further testified that she had submitted to a hair follicle drug test for the past seven months, and that the results were negative. Mother also ...

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