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Childress v. Braden

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

November 1, 2017

LAUREN ASHLEY CHILDRESS APPELLANT
v.
TAMI RACHELLE BRADEN APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE CONWAY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 15PR-16-13] HONORABLE DAVID H. MCCORMICK, JUDGE

          Kamps & Stotts, PLLC, by: Adrienne M. Griffis, for appellant.

          Wankum Law Firm, by: Jeff Wankum, for appellee.

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE.

         Lauren Ashley Childress appeals the Conway County Circuit Court order granting the adoption petition of Tami Rachelle Braden. On appeal, Lauren argues that the circuit court erred in finding her consent to the adoption of her son D.B. was not required because she had failed significantly and without justifiable cause to (1) communicate with D.B. and (2) provide child support pursuant to a court order. She also argues that Tami failed to prove that the adoption was in D.B.'s best interest. We affirm.

         D.B. was born on December 2, 2009, to Lauren and Robert Braden.[1] On May 30, 2012, Robert filed a complaint for paternity in the Perry County Circuit Court seeking sole custody of D.B. The affidavit of service reflects that Robert sent the complaint and summons by certified mail to Lauren and Lauren's mother, Laurel Childress, at Laurel's address. Delivery was not restricted to Lauren, and Laurel signed the return receipt.

         On June 4, 2012, Robert filed an ex parte petition for an emergency temporary order. In the affidavit attached to the petition, Robert reported that Lauren suffered from a drug addiction and had appeared to be under the influence of drugs during a visitation with D.B. On the same day the petition was filed, the court entered an ex parte emergency temporary order, granting Robert temporary custody of D.B. On June 5, 2012, Robert's counsel sent a copy of the June 4 order to Lauren's address by regular mail with a letter notifying her of a June 19, 2012 hearing.

         On June 19, 2012, the court held a hearing. On that same day, the court entered a written order noting that Lauren had failed to appear at the hearing despite having received notice. The court granted temporary custody of D.B. to Robert and supervised visitation to Lauren. Specifically, the court ordered that Lauren's visits with D.B. would be at Robert's discretion. The court further ordered that Lauren not be left alone with D.B.

         On October 15, 2012, Lauren, through counsel, filed a counterclaim for paternity. She asked the court to award her custody of D.B., or in the alternative, specific visitation. On December 18, 2012, Robert's counsel sent Lauren's counsel a letter notifying him of a final hearing on January 2, 2013. On December 21, 2012, Lauren's attorney filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, stating that Lauren had indicated she did not desire legal representation.

         On January 2, 2013, the Perry County Circuit Court held a final hearing, and on January 4, 2013, the court entered a written order granting permanent and full custody of D.B. to Robert. The court ordered Lauren to pay Robert $26 a week in child support through the clerk of the court. The court further ordered Lauren to pay Robert $2, 750 in attorney's fees. In the written order, the court found that Lauren had failed to appear at the hearing despite having received notice. Specifically, the court noted that Lauren

has failed to appear on three (3) different occasions regarding the custody of the child after notice was given to her. The Court further finds and orders that the issue of visitation with the child by [Lauren] is reserved by the Court pending a Petition of [Lauren] requesting visitation and any order which may be issued in the future regarding the same.

         Three years later, on January 15, 2016, Lauren filed a motion to establish visitation.

         On February 8, 2016, Tami, Robert's wife, filed the instant petition for adoption of D.B. in the Conway County Circuit Court. She alleged that since the January 4, 2013 order issued in Perry County, Lauren had not paid child support or visited D.B. Thus, Tami asserted that Lauren's consent to the adoption was not required.

         On June 10, 2016, the court held a hearing on the adoption petition. Robert testified that he filed for emergency custody of D.B. in 2012 because Lauren had a drug addiction, and he believed she was a danger to the child. He stated that Lauren had abused prescription drugs and had also used methamphetamine. He explained that before the final custody hearing, Lauren visited D.B. on a few occasions; however, he testified that Lauren ...


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