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Hinton v. Bethany Christian Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

May 6, 2015

PEGGY JOYCE HINTON, APPELLANT
v.
BETHANY CHRISTIAN SERVICES, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. PR-2014-0233-5. HONORABLE BETH STOREY, BRYAN, JUDGE.

Satterfield Law Firm, by: Cynthia S. Moody, for appellant.

H. Keith Morrison, for appellee.

PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge. VIRDEN and GRUBER, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 362

PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

The Washington County Circuit Court dismissed a petition filed by appellant Peggy Hinton to set aside a decree of adoption. On appeal, Peggy argues that the circuit court erred in finding that she lacked standing to challenge the adoption. We affirm.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Peggy is the mother of an adult daughter, Sheaquonda Hinton. In 2011, Peggy filed a petition in the Pulaski County Circuit Court seeking to be appointed guardian of Sheaquonda's person and estate, alleging that Sheaquonda had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was unable to properly care for herself. An order for temporary guardianship was entered in April 2012, finding that Sheaquonda was " presumed incapacitated by reason that she is a person that is mentally incapacitated and said disabilities have not been removed." In July 2012, the Pulaski County court issued a subsequent order that, although captioned " Order for Permanent Guardian," declared that Peggy " shall be allowed to serve as temporary guardian" for Sheaquonda.

In March 2014, Sheaquonda gave birth to a baby while she was incarcerated. Three days before giving birth, Sheaquonda, who was thirty-two years old at the time, had signed a consent to adoption. The baby was placed with Bethany Christian Services, and potential adoptive parents filed a petition for adoption in the Washington County Circuit Court shortly thereafter. The circuit court subsequently entered a decree of adoption, finding that Sheaquonda had relinquished her parental rights and consented to the adoption.

Several weeks later, Peggy filed a motion to set aside the decree of adoption, to which the adoptive parents responded. The adoptive parents subsequently filed a motion to dismiss Peggy's motion. The Washington County Circuit Court granted the motion to dismiss. Specifically, the court determined that the July 2012 order from Pulaski County only appointed Peggy as temporary guardian, not permanent guardian. The court noted that the order specifically used the phrase " temporary guardian," and, moreover, Peggy never obtained her letters of guardianship or filed any kind of accountings or inventories. The court accordingly found that, because there was no permanent guardianship, and the temporary guardianship had expired after ninety days pursuant to statute, Peggy lacked the legal standing necessary to intervene in the adoption matter.

II. Standard of Review

Our standard of review in this case is multi-tiered. We are reviewing the granting of a motion to dismiss a petition to set aside an adoption, based on the lack of standing of the party seeking to set the adoption aside. We review a circuit court's decision to grant a motion to dismiss for abuse of discretion. Doe v. Weiss, 2010 Ark. 150; Passmore v. Hinchey, 2010 Ark.App. 581, 379 S.W.3d 497. The question of standing, however, is a matter of law for this court to decide, and the appellate courts review questions of law de novo. Ark. Hotels & Entertainment, Inc. v. Martin, 2012 Ark. 335, 423 S.W.3d 49; Farm Bur. Ins. Co. of Ark. v. Running M Farms, Inc., 366 Ark. 480, 237 S.W.3d 32 (2006). Our courts have held that an error of law in itself can constitute an abuse of discretion. Fo ...


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