Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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 Dakota M.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 18, 2018

IN RE DAKOTA M. ET AL.[1]

          Session April 17, 2018

          Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Loudon County No. 17-JV-140 Henry E. Sledge, Magistrate

         Father's rights to his son were terminated based upon his stipulation that the Department of Children's Services could prove that grounds to terminate existed and upon the Court's conclusion that termination was in the child's best interest. Father appeals. Upon our review, we conclude that Father's stipulation that the evidence satisfied the statutory grounds for termination was a nullity. We also conclude that the trial court's order does not contain adequate factual findings with respect to the grounds for termination to provide for a meaningful review. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the court and remand the case.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile Court Vacated and Remanded

          Ian McCabe, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dusty P.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; and Erin A. Shackelford, Assistant Attorney General; for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

          Christine L. Dummer, Knoxville, Tennessee, Guardian ad litem.

          Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.

          OPINION

          RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE.

         In this appeal, Dusty P., the father of Dakota M., appeals the termination of his parental rights. We adapt the Statement of Facts from the brief of the Department of Children's Services for the factual and procedural history of the case:

On March 22, 2016, the Department of Children's Services filed a petition in the juvenile court, requesting the court find Dakota to be dependent and neglected based upon allegations of drug use by Chastity M[.], Dakota's mother ("Mother").[2] The petition named Mother and Dusty [P.], father of Dakota, ("Father") as respondents.[3] Father's location was unknown at the time the petition was filed.
Dakota was placed in the protective custody of the court and an order controlling the parents' conduct was entered on March 22, 2016. Mother was ordered to comply with a non-custodial permanency plan, which included completing a hair follicle or nail bed test, mental health and alcohol and drug assessments, following all recommendations of the assessments, completing random urine screens, and maintaining sobriety. Father was to present himself to DCS and the court for a determination of his fitness to parent.
A preliminary hearing was set for March 28, 2016, but was rescheduled for April 11, 2016. Only Mother appeared for the hearing as the fathers' whereabouts were still unknown. The court found probable cause that Dakota was dependent and neglected as alleged in the petition and that prior orders remained in effect. An adjudicatory hearing was set for April 25, 2016. The adjudicatory hearing was continued to May 2, 2016, so Mother could appear. The whereabouts of Father were still unknown.
… Mother and Father both appeared at the May 2, 2016 hearing. Mother waived the adjudicatory hearing and stipulated that the facts in the petition were true. The court found that Dakota was dependent and neglected, but that there were no allegations of neglect against Father at that time.
DCS then filed a petition in response to the court's bench order again requesting the court to find Dakota dependent and neglected. Mother and Father appeared at the hearing held on July 11, 2016. Mother waived her adjudicatory hearing and stipulated that Dakota was dependent and neglected. Father waived his preliminary hearing.
Father participated in the development of a permanency plan on June 7, 2016. The plan was ratified at a hearing held on July 11, 2016. Father was present at the hearing, was provided with the Criteria & Procedures for Termination of Parental Rights, and was in agreement with the permanency plan. The permanency plan set forth a list of requirements that Father needed to satisfy before Dakota could be placed in his custody. The permanency plan was "shorter than [the Department] typically makes, and required that Father: (1) obtain safe and stable housing, reliable transportation, and legal means of income and provide the Department with proof, (2) participate in regularly scheduled visitation, (3) submit to drug screens and pill counts to monitor his medication, (4) and maintain contact with the Department and notify them of any changes. . . . The juvenile court ratified the plan and found that Father's responsibilities under the plan were reasonably related to remedying the reasons for foster care.
Father had notice, but failed to appear for a hearing on November 28, 2016, though he was represented by counsel. At the hearing, the court found Dakota was dependent and neglected as Father did not have appropriate housing, income, or transportation, and he had driven Dakota without a license. A permanency hearing was held on January 9, 2017. The court found Father was not in compliance with the permanency plan as he had completed only very minimal tasks. Father also failed to appear for a permanency hearing held on May 8, 2017. The court found he was not in compliance with the permanency plan as he had not completed any steps and had not seen Dakota or participated in six months.[4]

(Citations to the record omitted.)

         DCS filed the petition to terminate parental rights on March 28, 2017. Pertinent to Father, the petition alleged as grounds: abandonment by failure to visit (Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1) and 36-1-102(1)(A)(i)); abandonment by failure to support (Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1) and 36-1-102(1)(A)(i)); abandonment by an incarcerated parent's failure to visit, failure to support, and by engaging in conduct that exhibited wanton disregard for the children's welfare (Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1) and 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv)); substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan (Tenn. ...


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.