FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66JJV-15-440] HONORABLE LEIGH ZUERKER, JUDGE
Standridge, for appellant Jonathan Nichols.
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
appellant Whitney Dubar Nichols.
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE
Nichols and Whitney Dubar (now Nichols) separately appeal the
Sebastian County Circuit Court order terminating their
parental rights to their son, B.N. Whitney also appeals the
termination of her parental rights to her children, A.D.,
H.P., and G.D. On appeal, they both argue that the
circuit court erred in finding that (1) it was in the
children's best interest to terminate their parental
rights and (2) a statutory ground supported termination. We
September 3, 2015, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody of A.D., H.P.,
and G.D. The petition listed Whitney as the mother. Jonathan
is not the father of the children but was Whitney's
live-in boyfriend when the petition was filed.
affidavit attached to the petition, DHS alleged that it had
opened a protective- services case on August 27, 2015, as a
result of Jonathan's spanking H.P., which left a large
bruise on the back of her leg. The affidavit further stated
that DHS had contacted Whitney and Jonathan on August 31,
2015, at the hotel where the family was living, after
receiving a report that Whitney had inadequate food for the
children. Whitney admitted posting on Facebook that she had
no formula for G.D. She submitted to a drug screen and
testified positive for THC. She also learned that she was
pregnant with B.N. She further admitted that she had
medications for her anger but had not been seeking treatment.
A chaplain arrived with formula and food donations, so DHS
left the children in Whitney's custody. DHS returned to
the hotel on September 1, 2015, to check on the welfare of
the children, but Whitney and Jonathan had moved out of the
hotel around midnight the night before and had left all their
belongings. DHS attempted to contact Jonathan, but he
disconnected the call. The circuit court entered an ex parte
order of emergency custody on the same day the petition was
September 8, 2015, the court entered a probable-cause order,
and on October 13, 2015, the court adjudicated the children
dependent-neglected based on abuse, neglect, and parental
unfitness. In the adjudication order, the court found that
DHS had made reasonable efforts to prevent removal of the
March 1, 2016, the court held a review hearing and noted that
Whitney and Jonathan had married. The court found that
Whitney was complying with the case plan and court orders.
Specifically, she was attending parenting classes and had
completed a psychological evaluation and a drug-and-alcohol
assessment. The court ordered Whitney to notify DHS when she
went into labor and noted that an emergency hold of the child
would be taken. The court further noted that Jonathan was
attending parenting classes and had completed a psychological
evaluation. The court ordered him to complete
domestic-violence classes. The court further found that DHS
had made reasonable efforts to provide family services.
March 13, 2016, Whitney gave birth to B.N., and on March 15,
2016, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and
dependency-neglect of the child. The petition listed Whitney
as the mother and Jonathan as the legal father. In the
affidavit attached to the petition, DHS alleged that the hold
resulted from the dependency-neglect case involving
Whitney's other children. On the same day the petition
was filed, the circuit court entered an ex parte order for
emergency custody. On April 1, 2016, the court entered a
April 19, 2016, the court adjudicated B.N.
dependent-neglected based on the parties' stipulations.
In the adjudication order, the court found that Whitney and
Jonathan had been complying with the case plan and court
orders. Specifically, Whitney had completed parenting classes
and was participating in the twelve-week program recommended
in her drug-and-alcohol assessment. The court also noted that
DHS had made new referrals for domestic-abuse counseling and
parenting-without-violence and parenting-forever classes. As
to Jonathan, the court found that he was working to complete
domestic-violence, parenting-without-violence, and
parenting-forever classes. The court found that DHS had made
reasonable efforts to provide family services.
August 4, 2016, the court held a permanency-planning hearing.
The court found that Jonathan and Whitney had housing and
income but no transportation. The court noted that Whitney
had completed the recommended drug treatment from her
assessment. The court ordered both Jonathan and Whitney to
complete parenting-without-violence ...