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.

Abram v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

September 28, 2016

CATHERINE ABRAM APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT [NO. 66JV-2011-106] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE

          Tina Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Mary Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

          Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.

          RITA W. GRUBER, JUDGE

         Appellant, Catherine Abram, appeals from an order of the Sebastian County Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her children A.D., born October 2, 2005, and H.D., born August 29, 2008. She presents three points on appeal: (1) the trial court erred in denying her motion to dismiss the termination proceeding where the case was filed in a previously closed dependency-neglect proceeding; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the grounds for termination; and (3) there was insufficient evidence that termination was in the children's best interest. We affirm the circuit court's order.[1]

         A dependency-neglect action was opened regarding A.D. and H.D. in 2011 and was closed by an order entered on April 14, 2014, following appellant's successful reunification with them. Less than a month after the case had been closed, appellant and her live-in boyfriend were arrested on drug-related charges. On May 12, 2014, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect under the same docket number of the case that the court had closed the month before. The children were subsequently adjudicated dependent-neglected in an order entered July 23, 2014, based on neglect and parental unfitness. Specifically, the court found that appellant had been charged with delivery of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, maintaining the premises for the purposes of drug sales, and endangering the welfare of the minors. The court found that appellant had placed the juveniles at substantial risk of serious harm as a result of their exposure to drug sales and to methamphetamine within reach of the juveniles.

         Appellant entered a plea of guilty to the criminal charges and was sentenced to imprisonment followed by an eight-year suspended sentence. She was released on parole in March 2015. In a fifteen-month review order entered on November 3, 2015, the court found that the mother had not complied with the case plan and the orders of the court. Specifically, the court found that she did not have appropriate housing or sufficient income, that she had not completed a psychological evaluation or parenting classes, and that she had failed to visit regularly. The court did find that she had submitted to a drug-and-alcohol assessment and to drug screens. The court set the goal of the case as termination of parental rights and adoption.

         After a hearing on January 8, 2016, the court entered an order on February 29, 2016, terminating appellant's parental rights. The trial court found three grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence: (1) that the children had been out of the home for more than twelve months and that, despite a meaningful effort by DHS to rehabilitate the parents, the conditions causing removal of the children had not been remedied; (2) that other factors and issues had arisen to demonstrate that returning the children to appellant would be contrary to the children's health, safety, and welfare; and (3) that the children had been subjected to aggravated circumstances, specifically, that there was little likelihood that services to the family would result in successful reunification. The court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of appellant's parental rights was in the children's best interest, specifically considering adoptability and potential harm.

         I.

         For her first point on appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying her motion to dismiss the termination proceeding because DHS erroneously filed the case under the same docket number as a closed dependency-neglect action. At the close of the testimony in the termination hearing, appellant's attorney made the following oral motion:

Just for the preservation of the record primarily it seems to me that there is some issue with reopening a new case under an old case number, so I would ask that this termination hearing be dismissed because it has been filed under an old case number. I just want to make sure that that request is in the record.

         The court denied the motion because it was "reopened prior to my taking the bench"[2] and because the court did not believe that it was divested of jurisdiction to hear the petition.

         To support her argument, appellant cites our supreme court's opinion in Young v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 2012 Ark. 334. In Young, an earlier dependency-neglect action had been closed in 2009 when the juvenile court placed the child in the permanent custody of the Sextons with visitation to the mother. In 2011, the Sextons filed an emergency ex parte petition to modify the mother's visitation, using the same case name and number from the closed dependency-neglect action. The juvenile court reopened the case and decided the custody issue in a "permanency-planning" format although it was not a dependency-neglect matter. Although the issue does not appear to have been argued by the parties in that case, the supreme court held that the circuit court erred in applying the Juvenile Code because the dependency-neglect case had been resolved, the action had been terminated, and the case could not be reopened. Id. ...


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.