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In re C.H.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

January 31, 2017

In re C.H.

          Session Date: November 22, 2016

         Interlocutory Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Jefferson County No. 15-00926 Dennis (Will) Roach, II, Judge

         This is a Tenn. R. App. P. 9 interlocutory appeal. Biological grandparents of a child at issue in a termination of parental rights action sought to intervene in the termination proceeding. The child had lived in the grandparents' home with them and the child's parents. The Department of Children's Services removed the child from that home and later sought to terminate the parental rights of the child's parents. The grandparents filed a motion to intervene. The trial court denied their motion, but granted their request for an interlocutory appeal. Thereafter, we also granted their request for interlocutory review. We affirm the decision of the trial court and now remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Juvenile Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          John T. Sholly, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellants, J.H. and S.J.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter, Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General, and Kathryn A. Baker, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

          Linda G. Larson, Dandridge, Tennessee, for the appellee, K.J.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         J.H. (grandmother) and S.J. (grandfather) are the maternal grandparents of the child at issue, C.H. The child was born in May 2010 to K.J. (mother) and R.H. (father). Since 2010, the child had lived with his grandparents. The same house was also shared by the child's parents, aunt, and older cousin. DCS removed the child from the home in November 2014 due, in part, to the parents' drug use.

         DCS filed a dependency and neglect action against the child's parents in the trial court. The grandparents sought to intervene, but their application was denied. On October 16, 2015, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child's parents. The grandparents again moved to intervene. Along with their motion, they attached three affidavits[1] asserting that the grandparents, rather than the parents, looked after the child, providing him with food, shelter, clothing, and transportation, among other things. The trial court dismissed the motion to intervene, stating:

this matter, including a hearing on the merits, has previously been heard on September 2, 2015, in the Dependence and Neglect case filed in this court on November 26, 2014, and nothing has changed regarding the [grandparents'] circumstances since then.

         The grandparents then asked the trial court to permit them to pursue a Tenn. R. App. P. 9 interlocutory appeal. The trial court granted their request. It listed the following reasons for its action:

Having given consideration to the severity of potential injury to the [grandparents], the probability of its occurrence and the probability that review upon entry of final judgment will be ineffective, this Court believes this Order is appealable due to the need to prevent irreparable injury.
The [grandparents] are seeking permission to Intervene in a Termination of Parental Rights action with a view to obtaining visitation with and/or custody of their grandson, the minor child in the case. If they are not allowed to intervene at this time, they will be unable to appeal the final judgment as they would not be parties to the case. If their daughter's rights are terminated, [the grandparents] will forever be deprived of a legal relationship with the child, which is an irreparable injury. Even if they do not prevail in their petition for custody, if [the grandparents] are allowed to intervene they would at least have the opportunity to seek visitation with their grandson during the pendency of this matter until he is adopted.
For purposes of judicial efficiency and economy, and to prevent the need for additional filings by [the grandparents, ] which might delay permanent placement of the child, which would not be in his best interest, ...

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