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Manohar v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

September 27, 2017

LAKHRAJ MANOHAR APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILD APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE CRAIGHEAD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT [NO. 16JJV-15-216] HONORABLE CINDY THYER, JUDGE

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

          Jerald A. Sharum, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge.

         Lakhraj Manohar appeals the circuit court's order finding that he is not the legal or biological father of Y.M. and dismissing him from the case. We affirm.

         On 9 July 2015, the Department of Human Services (DHS) petitioned for emergency custody of newborn Y.M. The accompanying affidavit explained that both Y.M. and her mother, Vada Beretto, tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamines at the time of Y.M.'s birth. Manohar was listed as Y.M.'s putative father. An ex parte order for emergency custody was issued, and on 10 July 2015, the circuit court found probable cause to continue DHS's custody of Y.M. Manohar was again listed as Y.M.'s putative father.

         In August 2015, the circuit court adjudicated Y.M. dependent-neglected due to "parental unfitness due to the mother's drug use." The court found that Manohar did not contribute to the dependency-neglect but that he was not a fit parent for custody because he "lives with the custodial parent, plus there are issues of domestic violence." The adjudication order found that Manohar was the biological and legal father of Y.M., and he was ordered to complete numerous requirements, including remaining drug free, completing parenting classes, obtaining and maintaining stable housing and employment, attending domestic-violence counseling, submitting to a drug-and-alcohol assessment, and completing a budget.

         A January 2016 review order noted that Manohar and Beretto had been married on 4 December 2015 and that Manohar had been incarcerated since late December on theft charges. His expected release date was 3 February 2016. The order noted that Manohar had completed some requirements of the case plan but had not completed domestic-violence counseling, obtained and maintained stable employment, or prepared and submitted a budget. Both parents were ordered to complete a psychological evaluation. The order also acknowledged a no-contact order between the mother and father and cautioned them not to violate that order.

         The case was reviewed again in May 2016, and the court found that neither parent was credible. The court found that Manohar had completed domestic-violence counseling but had not submitted to a drug-and-alcohol assessment or a psychological evaluation and had not prepared and submitted a budget. The court also noted that Manohar had been incarcerated twice since the last hearing, but he could not remember the dates of his incarceration or the reason for his incarceration.

         The permanency-planning order, entered in July 2016, changed the goal of the case to adoption. The order noted that Manohar had met some requirements of the case plan but had not obtained and maintained stable housing, prepared and submitted a budget, or submitted to either a psychological evaluation or a drug-and-alcohol assessment. Without explanation, the circuit court also ordered DNA testing.

         On 1 August 2016, DHS petitioned to terminate both parents' rights to Y.M. The petition listed Manohar as the putative father in the caption and the legal father in the body of the petition. As to both parents, DHS alleged the failure-to-remedy ground and the subsequent-factors ground for termination. In October 2016, the circuit court terminated the mother's rights; however, upon Manohar's motion, the termination petition as it related to him was dismissed without prejudice.

         The court reviewed the case in November 2016 and found that Manohar had complied with most requirements of the case plan. The court also found that DNA testing showed "a 0.00% possibility that Mr. Manohar is the father of the juvenile." Yet Manohar was still ordered to attend NA meetings and provide proof of attendance to DHS.

         In December 2016, DHS petitioned to terminate Manohar's parental rights, citing the subsequent-factors ground and the non-biological-father ground: "The presumptive legal father, Lakhraj Manohar, is not the biological father of the juvenile, [Y.M.], and the welfare of the juvenile can best be served by terminating the parental rights of the ...


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