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Bonner v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

February 21, 2018

ASHLEY BONNER AND MICKIE RICHARDSON APPELLANTS
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND MINOR CHILDREN APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-16-378] HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED

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

          Janet Lawrence, for appellant Mickie Richardson.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

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

          DAVID M. GLOVER, JUDGE.

         Mickie Richardson and Ashley Bonner have filed separate appeals from the termination of their parental rights to their three children, LR, AR, and CR. The termination order was entered on August 24, 2017, and Ashley and Mickie filed separate, timely notices of appeal. Mickie challenges the termination of his parental rights by 1) arguing generally that the Arkansas Department of Human Services' (DHS) rehabilitation efforts were not meaningful and reasonable and that DHS failed to prove a lack of compliance with the case plan, and 2) arguing that DHS did not prove it was in the children's best interest to terminate his parental rights. Ashley challenges the termination of her parental rights by 1) arguing that DHS did not prove the three statutory grounds relied upon by the trial court ("failure to remedy, " "subsequent factors, " and "aggravated circumstances"), and 2) arguing that DHS did not prove it was in the children's best interest to terminate her parental rights. We affirm both terminations.

         Procedural History

         On May 16, 2016, DHS filed a petition for emergency custody of LR, AR, and CR- the minor children of Ashley Bonner and Mickie Richardson. Monika Isenhower, a DHS child-abuse-and-neglect investigator, submitted the supporting affidavit of facts in which she alleged DHS received a hotline call on May 10, 2016. According to the affidavit, the hotline caller reported LR had missed two days of school and her brother, AR, said the reason was that she had bruises; the father, Mickie, had hit AR; Mickie had also spanked AR with a belt because AR and LR had made a video where they "had sex, " which AR described as kissing each other; and there was a belt mark on AR's forearm. The affidavit further alleged the mother, Ashley, agreed to bring all three children to DHS, which she did; LR was interviewed and reported she had gotten the bruises on her face from Mickie punching her three times with his fist; Ashley had told her to tell DHS she had a seizure; she and her brother AR got in trouble because they had touched each other's privates and recorded it on their uncle's phone; their uncle did not know they had done it because he was asleep when they made the phone video; and Mickie found the video on the phone. The DHS worker noted LR had bruising on both sides of her cheekbones, her upper right eyelid had a dark brown bruise on it, and she had a lighter brown bruise on the right side of her mouth on top of her upper lip. She further noted Ashley reported she told Mickie to stop but he did not. The trial court entered its original ex parte order for emergency custody on May 16, 2016. On May 19, 2016, the trial court entered a probable-cause order.

         The adjudication hearing was held on July 13, 2016, after which the children were found to be dependent-neglected. That finding was based on neglect, parental unfitness, and physical abuse by Mickie and a failure to protect by Ashley. The goal of the case was reunification, and following a November 30, 2016 review hearing, a trial home placement was arranged, and the trial court ordered legal custody of the children would return to Ashley and Mickie on January 28, 2017, if the trial placement went well.

         It is undisputed the trial placement went well enough for custody of the children to be returned to Ashley and Mickie. However, soon thereafter, on February 7, 2017, DHS filed a motion for ex parte emergency change of custody that contained new allegations of Mickie hitting AR. The motion was granted, and a probable-cause order was filed on February 8, 2017.

         On April 14, 2017, a permanency-planning hearing was held and the goal of the case was changed to adoption. DHS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both Ashley and Mickie on May 8, 2017. "Failure to remedy, " "subsequent factors, " and "aggravated circumstances" were alleged as the statutory grounds for termination. The termination hearing was held on August 2, 2017. Following that hearing, the trial court entered the termination order on August 24, 2017.

         Termination-of-Parental-Righ ...


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