from the Circuit Court for Hamblen County No. 14CV-200 Alex
E. Pearson, Judge 
a termination of parental rights case in which the mother and
stepfather sought termination of the biological father's
parental rights to his child. The trial court found that
clear and convincing evidence existed to support the
termination on the statutory ground of abandonment for
failure to remit child support. The court further found that
termination was in the best interest of the child. The father
appeals. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
E. Miller, Jefferson City, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Lee M. Crystal G. Jessee, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the
appellee, Charity Michelle H. and Jason Robert H.
W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
D. Michael Swiney, C.J. and W. Neal McBrayer, J., joined.
W. McCLARTY, JUDGE.
F. was born to Charity Michelle H. and John Lee M.
(individually "Mother" or "Father" and
collectively "the Parents") in June 2011. Mother
was married to another man at the time of the Child's
birth. Mother later obtained a divorce but never married
Father, who was confirmed as the biological father through a
Child primarily resided with Mother as a result of
Father's condition of cerebral palsy, which caused
physical and cognitive impairment. The Parents lived in
different apartments in the same apartment complex in Bulls
Gap, Tennessee for several years. However, Father visited the
Child on a limited basis usually with supervision based upon
Mother's concern that he was incapable of caring for the
Child for an extended period of time. The Child often called
for Mother while visiting with Father, and at times, Father
requested assistance because he could no longer care for the
Child. Father also left town on occasion and went weeks
without visiting the Child.
was unable to maintain regular employment based upon his
physical and cognitive limitations. He received $294 in
disability income, $459 in supplemental Social Security
income, and $45 in food stamps per month. He also obtained
limited periods of employment on occasion. His mother managed
his financial affairs and was responsible for providing
Father with a debit card to purchase his incidentals after
his bills were paid. Throughout the Child's lifetime,
Father never remitted child support and only occasionally
provided items for the Child while in his care.
relationship between the Parents eventually began to
deteriorate. In November 2012, Father filed a petition to
establish paternity and for entry of a parenting plan. He
also filed a motion in which he sought to prevent
Mother's attempt to relocate with the Child. The Parents
later entered into an agreed order, providing for his
visitation. Father never pursued his initial attempt to
relocated to Newport, Tennessee in April 2013, causing
difficulty in maintaining the terms of the visitation
agreement because Father was unable to drive. Mother
eventually returned to Bulls Gap, Tennessee. However,
visitation between the Child and Father remained sporadic,
leading Father to file a motion for contempt in September
2014 for failure to follow the visitation schedule.
November 2014, Mother married Jason Robert H.
("Stepfather"), who had already assumed a large
role in the Child's life. On December 12, 2014, Mother
and Stepfather (collectively "the Petitioners")
filed a petition to terminate Father's parental rights.
The Petitioners alleged that Father had abandoned the Child
by failing to visit and by failing to remit child support and
that he had also failed to legitimate the Child. The case
proceeded to a hearing during which counsel argued that
termination was warranted given Father's failure to visit
and remit support. Counsel did not pursue Father's
failure to legitimate the Child as a ground for termination
at the hearing.
pertinent to this appeal, Mother testified that Father failed
to visit with the Child for the four months preceding the
filing of the termination petition, namely August through
December 2014. She claimed that he last visited the Child in
June 2014 and that he never requested visitation after June
2014. She further claimed that he was not home when she
attempted to bring the Child for visitation. She stated his
visitation was sporadic prior to the four months preceding
the filing of the petition. She claimed that he also went
weeks at a time without visitation.
acknowledged that Father filed a petition to legitimate the
Child in November 2012. She asserted that he never pursued
the petition because they entered into an agreed visitation
schedule where the Child stayed with Father for a few hours
several days a week. She claimed that the Child was often
hungry and had not been changed on a regular basis while with
Father. She also observed trash throughout the apartment,
including beer bottles. She noted that a knife had been left
on the coffee table on one occasion. She stated that she
advised Father of her concerns and that they later agreed to
limit visitation to one day per week. She recalled that he
often asked for assistance or ended the visit early even
after his visitation decreased to one day per week.
testified that after she moved to Newport, Father refused her
request for gas money to facilitate visitation on at least
one occasion. She claimed that he called her repeatedly in
May 2014 when she refused to leave a family function early to
bring the Child to Father for visitation. She claimed that
she continued to facilitate visitation even after their
disagreement in May 2014. She described an incident in June
2014, where she arrived with the Child only to find Father
with two unclothed women in an unclean apartment. She
asserted that she cleaned the apartment and waited for the
women to disperse before leaving the Child. She stated that
she found his apartment unclean yet again when she returned
for the Child's second and last visitation in June 2014.
She recalled that Father called her 45 minutes later and
asked her to retrieve the Child. She provided that Father was
not home when she attempted to facilitate visitation again in
June 2014. She agreed that she had not attempted to
facilitate visitation since June 2014.
testified that Father never remitted child support, despite
his receipt of disability and Social Security benefits and
occasional periods of employment. She claimed that he and his
mother also rebuffed her attempt to secure disability
benefits for the Child based upon his disability. She stated
that he never provided for the Child, with the exception of
one pack of diapers and two packs of wipes in June 2012. She
asserted that he denied her repetitive requests for financial
assistance and advised her that the Child was her
responsibility, not his. She agreed that Father provided some
items for the Child during visitation but recalled that she
also provided snacks and other items.
described a loving relationship between Stepfather and the
Child and claimed that Stepfather also financially provides
for the Child.
Miles, a family friend and an employee at a local grocery
store, testified that Father used to frequent the store on a
weekly basis to purchase beer and cigarettes but that his
visits had decreased in the last year. She recalled that he
was employed at a bar at ...