FROM THE CRAWFORD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 17JV-14-58]
HONORABLE MICHAEL MEDLOCK, JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant Amy Geatches.
Lanford, Ark. Pub. Defender Comm'n, for appellant Mike
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
D. VAUGHT, Judge
Geatches appeals the Crawford County Circuit Court's
order terminating his parental rights to two minor children,
C.S. and G.G. Previously, Mike's appellate counsel filed
a motion to withdraw and a no-merit brief pursuant to
Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human
Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004)
(Linker-Flores I ), while his wife Amy filed a merit
brief challenging the circuit court's findings as to
statutory grounds and best interest in terminating her
parental rights to the same children. We affirmed the
termination of Amy's parental rights but denied
Mike's counsel's motion to withdraw and ordered
rebriefing and supplementation of the record. Geatches v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2016 Ark.App. 344. This
merit appeal followed. Mike's only argument on appeal is
that he never had any parental rights to C.S. and was
therefore not subject to an order purporting to terminate
such rights. Because Mike failed to preserve this argument
for appeal, we affirm.
recitation of the facts is presented in our previous opinion
in Geatches v. Arkansas Department of Human
Services, 2016 Ark.App. 344. There was conflicting
evidence in the record about C.S.'s paternity. Throughout
the case, the case caption consistently reflected that Mike
was designated as the "father" of both
"juveniles." He is referred to as both
"father" and "parent" without any caveat
or designation regarding to which child. Early in the case,
prior to the dependency-neglect hearing, the Arkansas
Department of Human Services (DHS) filed an amended petition
for emergency custody alleging that a man named Leland Terry
was the biological father of C.S. However, the following
adjudication order did not include Leland Terry's name in
the caption and did not make any reference to him in the
order. In fact, none of the subsequent orders in this case
mentioned Mr. Terry.
termination hearing, there was no direct testimony or
evidence about C.S.'s paternity, but Mike stated that he
had "been acting as the father of C.S." and that
Amy described an instance when there had been an allegation
of abuse reported to DHS by "the wife of C.S.'s
biological father" (indicating that C.S.'s
biological father was someone other than Mike). The trial
court, in its ruling from the bench, stated that it
terminated Mike's rights based on the "best interest
of the juveniles, actually juvenile." DHS also
specifically requested that it be granted permission to file
a termination petition against Leland Terry at a later date.
However, the written termination order subsequently issued by
the court states that it terminated Mike's parental
rights to G.G. and C.S., and the caption identified Mike as
the father of both children.
Knuckles v. Arkansas Department of Human Services,
we explained that we review termination-of-parental-rights
cases de novo. 2015 Ark.App. 463, at 2-3, 469 S.W.3d 377,
378-79 (citing Dinkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 344 Ark. 207, 40 S.W.3d 286 (2001)). However, we
reverse a trial court's decision to terminate parental
rights only when it is clearly erroneous. Ullom v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 340 Ark. 615, 12 S.W.3d 204
(2000); Mitchell v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 2013 Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d 851; Brewer v.
Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 71 Ark.App.
364, 43 S.W.3d 196 (2001). A finding is clearly erroneous
when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing
court on the entire evidence is left with a distinct and firm
conviction that a mistake was made. Wade v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 337 Ark. 353, 990 S.W.2d 509
(1999); Hopkins v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs.,
79 Ark.App. 1, 83 S.W.3d 418 (2002).
raises only one point on appeal, that the circuit court erred
in terminating his parental rights to C.S., who is not his
biological child and to whom he never had any parental
rights. Mike acknowledges that he never raised this issue
below, but he argues that he should not be barred from
raising it on appeal because our caselaw is clear that a
posttrial motion is unnecessary to preserve an issue for
appeal in a dependency-neglect case. In Kelso v.
Arkansas Department of Human Services, 2013
Ark.App. 509, at 3, we explained,
The first possible time Kelso could have known that the trial
court erroneously checked these provisions in the termination
order was when in fact he received the termination order.
Furthermore, we hold that a party need not file post-trial
motions in termination proceedings. In Ashcroft v.
Arkansas Department of Human Services, 2009 Ark. 461, at
2-3, our supreme court specifically held that post-trial
motions will not extend the time for filing the notice of
appeal in dependency-neglect cases:
Rule 6-9 sets twenty-one days as the time within which the
notice of appeal must be filed in cases involving dependency
neglect. Ark. Sup.Ct. R. 6-9(b)(1) (2009). In addition, Rule
6-9(b)(4) states that "[t]he time in which to file a
notice of appeal or a notice of cross-appeal and the
corresponding designation of record will not be
extended." The express purpose of Rule 6-9(b) is to
expedite the appellate process in dependency-neglect cases.
Ratliff v. Ark. Dep't of Health & Human
Servs.,371 Ark. 534, 268 S.W.3d 322 (2007) (per
curiam). Although Rule 4(b)(1) of the Arkansas Rules of
Appellate Procedure-Civil allows the deadline for a notice of
appeal to be extended where certain post-trial motions have
been filed, we have ...