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In re Lukis B.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 24, 2017

In re LUKIS B.

          Assigned on Briefs February 2, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Maury County Nos. 14937, 89021 David L. Allen, Judge

         The father appeals the circuit court's adjudication that his child is dependent and neglected due to the father's mental illness and paranoid behavior, which make the father unfit to properly care for his child. The father contends the circuit court erred in determining that, at the time of trial, his child was dependent and neglected. Finding the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court's ruling, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Shawn D. Snyder, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lewis B. [1]

          Herbert H. Slatery, Attorney General and Reporter, and Ellison M. Berryhill, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

          Riley Morgan Pace, Nashville, Tennessee, for the minor child, Lukis B.

          Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson, II, and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.

         After receiving a referral that Lewis B. ("Father") had been arrested, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services ("DCS") filed a petition in the Maury County Juvenile Court on April 16, 2013, alleging that Lukis B. (born April 2000) was dependent and neglected while in Father's care.[2] The petition alleged, inter alia, that Father was arrested on April 7, 2013, for simple assault against Patricia B.―Father's paramour with whom Father and the child resided―due to his erratic behavior and declarations that one of the family members was going to die that night. It further alleged that several guns were removed from the home and $8, 000 and over 100 narcotic pills were found in Father's pocket at the time of his arrest. The juvenile court signed a protective custody order on the day the petition was filed, placing the minor child in the temporary custody of Patricia B. and prohibiting contact between Father and the child.

         A preliminary hearing was held three days later, following which the juvenile court found probable cause to believe that Lukis was dependent and neglected and ordered temporary custody of the child to remain with Patricia B. On January 24, 2014, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected. That ruling was appealed by Father to the Maury County Circuit Court.

         While the matter was pending de novo review before the circuit court, Patricia B. reported that she was no longer able to care for Lukis due to her ailing health. Thereafter, DCS filed a petition for temporary legal custody of the child, and on December 14, 2015, the child was committed to the care and custody of DCS.

         Following a one-day trial on December 28, 2015, the circuit court ruled that DCS had proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that Lukis was dependent and neglected and suffering from neglect or abuse based upon Father's mental condition.

         Father appeals, contending the evidence was insufficient to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Lukis was dependent and neglected at the time of the de novo hearing.

         Analysis

         A child is dependent and neglected if the "parent, guardian or person with whom the child lives, by reason of cruelty, mental incapacity, immorality, or depravity is unfit to properly care for such child, " Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102(b)(13)(B) (2016), or if the child "is suffering from abuse or neglect." Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102(b)(13)(G) (2016). A determination that a child is dependent and neglected must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-129 (2016). For evidence to meet the clear and convincing standard, it must eliminate any serious or substantial doubt about the correctness of the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence. In re Valentine, 79 S.W.3d 539, 546 (Tenn. 2002) (citing Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co., 833 S.W.2d 896, 901 ...


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