Assigned on Briefs June 1, 2017
from the Juvenile Court for Chester County No. 2015-JV-1323
Van McMahan, Judge
a termination of parental rights case. The trial court
terminated Appellant's parental rights to the minor child
by order of July 15, 2016. Appellant filed a timely notice of
appeal. However, Appellant failed to comply with Tennessee
Code Annotated § 36-1-124(d) (Supp. 2016) in that she
failed to sign the notice of appeal. Because this Court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, we dismiss the appeal.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed
L. Karnes, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, James G.
and Missy G.
William Johnson Milam, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant,
B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
John W. McClarty, J., joined.
B. GOLDIN, JUDGE
March of 2013, Nevaeh B. was born to Appellant Makayla
During most of Nevaeh B.'s life, Appellant has been
incarcerated. The child has been in the physical and legal
custody of her paternal aunt and uncle, Appellees, since
February 27, 2014. On February 17, 2015, Appellees filed a
petition to terminate Appellant's parental rights.
Appellant filed her answer on April 21, 2015, wherein she
denied the material allegations made in the petition. On
March 9, 2016, the trial court heard the petition to
terminate Appellant's parental rights. By order of July
16, 2016, the trial court terminated Appellant's parental
rights on the grounds of abandonment, failure to
substantially comply with the reasonable requirements of the
permanency plan, and persistence of the conditions that led
to the child's removal from Appellant's custody. The
trial court also found that termination of Appellant's
parental rights was in Nevaeh B.'s best interest.
Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal on August 12, 2016.
February 6, 2017, Appellees filed a motion, in this Court, to
dismiss the appeal. As grounds, Appellees averred that
Appellant had failed to comply with Tennessee Rule of Civil
Procedure 24 by failing to file a transcript or statement of
the evidence, and that Appellant had failed to sign her
notice of appeal as required under Tennessee Code Annotated
Section 36-1-124(d). By order of February 7, 2017, this Court
granted Appellant additional time to comply with Rule 24. As
to Appellees' argument concerning Appellant's failure
to sign the notice of appeal, this Court denied
Appellees' motion to dismiss the appeal "without
prejudice to their ability to raise the issue in their
brief." Appellees' brief raises the issue of
"[w]hether the appeal should be dismissed in its
entirety, with prejudice, due to the Notice of Appeal not
being signed by the Appellant herself pursuant to T.C.A.
§ 36-1-124(d)." Accordingly, before addressing any
of the substantive issues, we will first address the question
of whether Appellant's notice of appeal is sufficient to
confer jurisdiction on this Court.
July 1, 2016, the Tennessee Legislature amended Tennessee
Code Annotated § 36-1-124 to add subsection (d), which
states: "Any notice of appeal filed in a termination of
parental rights action shall be signed by the
appellant." Inasmuch as the amended statute is
procedural in nature, this Court determined that the
amendment to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-124(d)
should be applied retrospectively to all termination of
parental rights actions "'pending when the
legislation [took] effect'" on July 1, 2016. In
re Gabrielle W., No. E2016-02064-COA-R3-PT, 2017 WL
2954684, at *4 n.5 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 11, 2017) (quoting
Kee v. Shelter Ins., 852 S.W.2d 226, 228 (Tenn.
1993)). Accordingly, the requirements of Tennessee Code
Annotated Section 36-1-124(d) are applicable to the case at
In re Gabrielle W., this Court held, as a matter of
first impression, that an appellant's failure to sign the
notice of appeal in compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated
§ 36-1-124(d) "is a jurisdictional default, and the
appeal must be dismissed." In re Gabrielle W.,
No. E2016-02064-COA-R3-PT, 2017 WL 2954684, at *4 (Tenn. Ct.
App. July 11, 2017). After analyzing several out-of-state
cases considering similar statutes, the Gabrielle W.
In these cases, dealing with termination of parental rights,
the courts strictly followed the language of the statutes and
rules. This state's statute is just as unforgiving.
Neither in the Tennessee Code Annotated nor in the Tennessee
Rules of Appellate Procedure is there a safety valve or means
of waiver for the requirement of the appellant's
signature. Therefore, based on the language of the statute,
the absence of [the appellant's] signature on the notice
of appeal is a jurisdictional default, and the appeal must be
Id. (footnote omitted). Relying on the reasoning in
Gabrielle W., in subsequent cases, this Court has
strictly interpreted Tennessee Code Annotated Section
36-1-124(d) to require dismissal of termination of parental
rights appeals, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, when
the appellant has not signed the notice of appeal. See In
re Catherine J., No. W2017-00491-COA-R3-PT, 2017 WL
3141825 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 24, ...