MARVIN SEIBERS, ET AL.
Session February 20, 2018
from the Chancery Court for Campbell County No. 2016-CV-127
Elizabeth C. Asbury, Chancellor
appeal involves a request for visitation by the maternal
grandparents. The paternal grandmother had been awarded legal
custody when the petition was filed. Before the trial, the
children were adopted by the paternal grandmother. The trial
court granted visitation pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated
section 36-6-302. We affirm the decision of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
Jennifer Schrader Bjornstad, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Carol Latimer.
C. Angel, Clinton, Tennessee, for the appellees, Marvin
Seibers and Donna Seibers.
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
August 5, 2016, Marvin and Donna Seibers
("Petitioners") filed a Petition for Grandparent
Visitation seeking rights to visit two of Marvin Seibers'
grandchildren, Milli (born in July, 2009) and Madin (born in
August, 2012) (collectively, the "Children"). The
Children were then in the custody of Carol Latimer
("Respondent"), the Children's paternal
grandmother. With the involvement of the Tennessee Department
of Children's Services ("DCS"), the Children
were previously removed from the care of their biological
mother, who had unresolved substance abuse issues. Respondent
had been awarded custody of the Children in 2010 and 2013,
respectively. Since then, the Children have dealt with
significant health issues, including anxiety and
Encephalopathy secondary to in utero drug exposure. Both
Children had improved in the years since being in
Respondent's custody. At the time the petition was made,
Respondent remained their legal custodian.
request for visitation stated that they had a previous
relationship with the Children as maternal grandparents, but
Respondent had purposely limited any interactions between
them. Respondent denied those allegations in a later response
and stated that she was in the process of adopting the
Children. Respondent further alleged that Donna Seibers was
not the Children's biological grandmother. On December
16, 2016, the Children were formally adopted by Respondent in
a separate proceeding.
trial court held a hearing concerning the Petition for
Grandparent Visitation on February 27, 2017. Respondent
testified that Petitioners supported her gaining custody of
the Children, spoke with them occasionally on the telephone,
and visited them three to four times a year. Mr. Seibers
testified that he supported Respondent having custody but
that Respondent only allowed Petitioners to visit the
Children on her terms. Communications between Petitioners and
the Children were halted after a video call where Milli
called Mr. Seibers by his given name and began crying after
Mr. Seibers repeatedly told her to call him "Paw."
Respondent ended the call and refused to answer future calls
from Mr. Seibers. Additional testimony established that Mrs.
Seibers was not the Children's biological grandmother.
Respondent and another witness also described tensions
between Mrs. Seibers and Respondent when they were at
Petitioners' home for Christmas in 2015. Respondent
argued that the court should dismiss the motion for
Petitioners' failure to establish any proof of danger of
substantial harm to the Children pursuant to Tennessee Code
Annotated section 36-6-306. The court denied the motion and
instead considered the best interests of the Children as
outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-3-302. While
Respondent said she was not "indefinitely opposed"
to the Children visiting Petitioners, she said she was in the
best position to determine what was in the best interest of
the Children and would allow contact "when the
[C]hildren are ready." The trial court granted the
petition that allowed Mr. Seibers supervised visitation that
would transition into unsupervised visitation in June 2017.
filed a Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment granting the
visitation on April 13, 2017. In the motion, Respondent again
argued that the trial court should have applied the standards
of Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-306 to the case
instead of Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-302. When
the former statute was applied under a substantial harm
standard, Respondent argued that Petitioners' request for
visitation would fail and should be dismissed. Petitioners
filed a response asking the court to uphold its judgment and
apply the plain language of Tennessee Code Annotated section
36-6-302 in its ruling. The court denied Respondent's
motion of June 8, 2017. This timely appeal followed.
consolidate and restate the issues raised on appeal by
Respondent as follows:
Whether the court erred in applying Tennessee Code Annotated
section 36-6-302 as opposed to Tennessee Code Annotated
section 36-6-306 and -307 when deciding an issue of
grandparent visitation when the Children have been removed
from their original home and into the custody of their
III.STANDARD OF ...