Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Bryson F.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

July 17, 2017


         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamblen County No. 14CV-200 Alex E. Pearson, Judge [1]

         This is 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.

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

          Matt E. Miller, Jefferson City, Tennessee, for the appellant,

          John Lee M. Crystal G. Jessee, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Charity Michelle H. and Jason Robert H.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J. and W. Neal McBrayer, J., joined.


          JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Bryson 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 DNA test.

         The 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.

         Father 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.

         The 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 establish paternity.

         Mother 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.

         In 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.

         As 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.

         Mother 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.

         Mother 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.

         Mother 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.

         Mother described a loving relationship between Stepfather and the Child and claimed that Stepfather also financially provides for the Child.

         Charity 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.