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In re Carter B.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 12, 2017

In re CARTER B.

          Assigned on Briefs July 3, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. 3015-16 Robert L. Jones, Judge

         This case involves the custody of Carter B., a child adjudicated to be dependent and neglected. The Department of Children's Services, after taking custody of the child, asked the trial court to approve a 90-day trial home visit in the home of the child's maternal grandmother, pursuant to the provisions of Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-130(d) (Supp. 2017). The trial court granted the motion, finding a trial home visit to be in the child's best interest. The court scheduled a review hearing at a time near the end of the 90-day period. The child's guardian ad litem, Stacie Odeneal, who opposed the trial home visit, filed a notice of appeal. The child's mother filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the trial court's order is not a final judgment. We hold the trial court's order granting a temporary trial home visit is not a final judgment. Accordingly, the guardian ad litem's appeal is dismissed.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed; Case Remanded

          Stacie Odeneal, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, Guardian ad Litem for Carter B., appellant.

          Teresa P. Martin, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, for the appellee, Melynda B.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and Alexander S. Rieger, Deputy Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which W. Neal McBrayer and Arnold B. Goldin, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE.

         I.

         The child was first placed in grandmother's care after DCS filed a petition in juvenile court alleging that the child was dependent and neglected in his mother's care. DCS alleged that the child was often staying in grandmother's home while mother was staying in a camper in grandmother's back yard. Law enforcement officers discovered a methamphetamine laboratory inside the camper while the child was present. The officers also found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the camper. DCS recommended that the court appoint a guardian ad litem and grant custody of the child to grandmother, who was tasked with supervising the parents' visitation with the child. After a preliminary hearing, the juvenile court ordered that the child be placed in grandmother's custody. Mother and father stipulated (1) that they were incarcerated at the time of the petition and hearing; (2) that the child was dependent and neglected; (3) that the child should remain in grandmother's custody; and (4) that DCS should open a Family Support Services case.

         DCS later took custody of the child and began working with grandmother to help make her residence safe, clean, and suitable for the child. Eventually, DCS filed a motion in juvenile court for an order approving a trial home visit with grandmother. The juvenile court denied the motion. DCS appealed to the trial court. The trial court granted a 90-day trial home visit with grandmother. The court found that DCS had made multiple home visits and found grandmother's home to be a clean, safe, and appropriate place for the child to live. The court also found that grandmother had participated in parenting training, homemaker classes, co-parenting classes, domestic violence classes, and a class on how to identify drug use in others. The court noted that grandmother and the child had been visiting with one another, love one another, and that grandmother had been caring for two other grandchildren. The trial court also noted that it "does not expect [grandmother] to be perfect, and the Court does not find much fault with her." The court observed that grandmother had various personal burdens, including that she is not in ideal physical condition. However, the court found that a 90-day trial home visit was in the child's best interest. The order states that "[a] review hearing is scheduled in this [court] for August 16, 2016, at 9 a.m. in order to review the status of the trial home visit." The trial court did not designate its order to be a final judgment as allowed by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02.

         The guardian ad litem filed a notice of appeal. Mother filed a notice to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the trial court's order is not a final judgment. The dispositive issue is whether the trial court's order granting ...


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