Assigned on Briefs April 3, 2017
from the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County No. 16-JV-380,
16-JV-381, 16-JV-382 Tim Barnes, Judge
appeal arises from the termination of a father's parental
rights. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services
("DCS") filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for
Montgomery County ("the Juvenile Court") seeking to
terminate the parental rights of Jeffrey H.
("Father") to his minor children Candice, Danonie,
and Izabella ("the Children"). The Children had
entered DCS custody after a domestic incident between Father
and the Children's mother. After a trial, the Juvenile
Court entered an order finding by clear and convincing
evidence that grounds existed to terminate Father's
parental rights and that termination is in the Children's
best interest. Father appealed. Finding it inapplicable to
putative biological parent Father, we reverse the ground of
failure to establish paternity found as regards the child
Danonie. We affirm the rest of the Juvenile Court's
judgment terminating Father's parental rights to the
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Affirmed, in Part, and Reversed, in Part; Case Remanded
P. Bryant, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeffrey
Herbery H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and,
Jordan K. Crews, Assistant Attorney General, for the
appellee, the Tennessee Department of Children's
Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Andy D. Bennett and Kenny W. Armstrong, JJ., joined.
MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE
2014, Father and the Children's mother had a domestic
incident in a car which was pulled to the side of the road.
The Children and two half-siblings were present. The
parents allegedly were under the influence of alcohol. Father
tested positive for marijuana when the Children entered
custody. In July 2014, the Children were adjudicated
dependent and neglected due to their being exposed to drug
abuse and domestic violence. The Children have been in DCS
custody since the 2014 domestic incident.
plans were entered for Father. Father was required to pay $10
per month in child support for each of the Children. The
permanency plans contained a number of requirements for
Father, including: attend domestic violence classes and
provide documentation; participate in random drug screens;
and obtain appropriate housing.
April 2016, DCS filed a petition seeking to terminate
Father's parental rights to the Children. This matter was
tried in July 2016. The bulk of the testimony at trial came
from DCS family service worker Taylor Brown
("Brown"). Brown took over the Children's case
in October 2015. Brown testified that Father is the legal
Father of Candice and Izabella, and the alleged father of
Danonie. Brown stated that records reflected no child support
paid by Father for the Children. Brown testified that during
the relevant four-month period between December 4, 2015 and
April 3, 2016, there was no reason why Father could not pay
child support. Brown stated further that Father is capable of
working and currently works for a landscaping company. Brown
stated that in the four months after removal and in spite of
DCS efforts to assist him, Father made no attempt to remedy
the reasons that the Children entered custody in the first
place. Brown stated that in all the time the Children have
been in custody, Father never has provided a suitable home
for the Children. Brown testified Father maintained only
sporadic visitation with the Children. Brown stated further
that she was not aware of Father being involved in the
Children's medical, dental, school, or psychological
her testimony, Brown testified that Father was inconsistent
at participating in drug screens. Father failed to appear for
a number of drug screens, resulting in testing "positive
by default." Brown was not aware that Father had
attended any domestic violence classes. Brown stated that
Father completed a clinical assessment, but "that's
it." As to the Children's current environment, Brown
testified that the Children had bonded well with the foster
family. Finally, regarding Father's temperament, Brown
stated that Father cursed her on occasion and made her feel
uncomfortable around him.
Foster Father testified. Foster Father serves in the U.S.
Army. Foster Father stated his willingness to adopt the
Children should they become available for adoption. Foster
Father testified as to his intentions concerning the
My long-term vision for them would be staying with as if they
were my biological children. I would nurture them and expect
them to be successful young adults going to college, having
successful careers, whether that's military service or,
you know, something -- some level of public service. I
don't see any of the kids having an issue with going to
college and being successful in life. They are very
academically inclined, so I think they have a bright and
successful future ahead of them.
testified. Father testified regarding his participation in
the case, particularly in regard to the allegations of an
anger problem and drug abuse:
Q. Okay. And the recent failure for benzos, do you have [an]
explanation for that?
A. Yes. I went to the emergency room with muscle spasms, and
they give me three different types of medicine.
Q. (By Mr. Bryant) [Father], have you taken any
over-the-counter drugs since that time?
A. I take ibuprofen every now and again.
Q. Okay. For the same muscle issues?
Q. Okay. And as far as these classes and these assessments,
have you done any of these assessments that DCS has been
talking about so far in this case?
A. I did the clinical, but Ms. Taylor keeps saying she's
going to put in the paperwork. Every time I ask her,
she'll say she's going to put in the paperwork. I
can't do it, because I ain't got no insurance, and
I've got to wait on her to put in the paperwork, but she
ain't done it yet, so I can't.
Q. And which class was that?
A. It's the A&Ds, the domestic -- everything but the
Q. Okay. You've done the clinical assessment?
Q. Okay. And when the prior worker was on the case, did you
do any of the A&D -- did you do an A&D assessment at
all during this case?
A. When Mr. Vega [the previous caseworker] had it, he
didn't tell me I had to do no A&D assessment and no
A. That came about when she got the case.
Q. Okay. Did you ever go to any other facility for any other
A. I went to Bradford like four different times when they
said they sent the stuff to them, but they said they never
Q. Okay. So you went to Bradford four times?
Q. Do you recall when you did that?
A. I can't remember the exact date, but it was last year.
Q. In 2015?
Q. Is there any illegal activity happening in your home?
A. Not that I know of.
Q. Have you had any sort of criminal legal problems since you
got out of jail?
Q. And that was in the middle of 2015; is that right?
Q. And do you see anything that would prevent you from caring
for the kids if you were ...