FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-16-181] HONORABLE SHANNON L. BLATT, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
Goff, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, JUDGE.
Steven Kohlman appeals from the termination of his parental
rights to his children J.K., As.K., Au.K., and B.K., who
range in age from three to seven years old.On appeal, Steven
argues that he was denied due process because he was not made
a party or offered services until the petition to terminate
his parental rights was filed, and he also argues that the
termination order should be reversed because there was
insufficient proof of statutory grounds or that termination
was in the children's best interest. We affirm.
review termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.
Mitchell v. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs., 2013
Ark.App. 715, 430 S.W.3d 851. At least one statutory ground
must exist, in addition to a finding that it is in the
child's best interest to terminate parental rights; these
must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Ark. Code
Ann. § 9-27-341 (Supp. 2015); M.T. v. Ark. Dep't
of Human Servs., 58 Ark.App. 302, 952 S.W.2d 177 (1997).
Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of proof that
will produce in the factfinder a firm conviction as to the
allegation sought to be established. Anderson v.
Douglas, 310 Ark. 633, 839 S.W.2d 196 (1992). The
appellate inquiry is whether the trial court's finding
that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing
evidence is clearly erroneous. J.T. v. Ark. Dep't of
Human Servs., 329 Ark. 243, 947 S.W.2d 761 (1997). A
finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence
to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is
left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been made. Yarborough v. Ark. Dep't of Human
Servs., 96 Ark.App. 247, 240 S.W.3d 626 (2006).
case was initiated by appellee Arkansas Department of Human
Services (DHS) when it filed a petition for emergency custody
of the children on April 4, 2016. The petition named Kathy as
the children's mother and Steven as their putative
father. An attached affidavit of a family-service worker
stated that it had been reported that the children had been
left with a babysitter for three days and that Kathy was
supposed to get them but never showed up. It was also
reported that Kathy used drugs. The worker made contact with
the babysitter and found that the children were safe and
being cared for by her. The babysitter had already made
arrangements with the children's paternal grandfather,
Robert Kohlman (appellant's father), for Robert to pick
the children up and take them to his home. At that time, DHS
decided that it would allow Robert to take his grandchildren
to his home. However, before Robert arrived to get the
children, Kathy took the children from the babysitter and
went to a motel under a false name. On the next day, the
family-service worker located the children at the motel, and
they were again in the care of the babysitter. Kathy was away
from the hotel room, but she returned and was drug tested.
Kathy tested positive for multiple controlled substances
including methamphetamine, THC, and opioids. The babysitter
also tested positive for drugs. The worker made contact with
Steven, who had recently been arrested and incarcerated for
failure to appear. Steven stated that he had left the
children in the babysitter's care prior to his
incarceration but that he did not know she used drugs. The
affidavit also stated that DHS had a previous history with
the family. In the previous protective-services case, there
had been true findings against Steven for inadequate
supervision of J.K. in 2011 and physical abuse committed
against As.K. in 2012.
April 4, 2016, the trial court entered an ex parte order for
emergency custody of the children. In the emergency order,
the trial court found that removal of the children was
necessary to protect their health and safety.
probable-cause order was entered on April 27, 2016. The
probable-cause order stated that Steven was the putative
father and had appeared at the probable-cause hearing. The
trial court ordered Steven to submit to genetic testing.
trial court entered an adjudication order on June 7, 2016,
finding the children to be dependent-neglected. The goal of
the case was a concurrent goal of reunification and permanent
relative placement. A review order was entered on December
14, 2016, wherein the goal of the case was changed to
reunification with the concurrent goal of termination of
parental rights and adoption. In the review order, the trial
court found that Kathy had no income, no transportation, had
not complied with the case plan, and had consistently tested
positive for illegal drugs. The review order indicated that
Steven was living with his father and had not availed himself
of services. The trial court did, however, indicate that
Steven had submitted to random drug screens (which were
negative) and had exercised visitation with the children (but
had appeared at visitation intoxicated).
permanency-planning order dated February 6, 2017 (but not
entered until March 28, 2017), the trial court found that DNA
testing had confirmed Steven to be the children's father,
and thus the court found Steven to be the legal father. The
trial court appointed Steven counsel. The trial court found
that both parents had not availed themselves of services and
that Kathy continued to test positive for illegal drugs. The
case goal was changed to termination of parental rights and
March 15, 2017, DHS filed a petition to terminate both
parents' parental rights. The termination hearing was
held on July 10, 2017.
August 16, 2017, the trial court entered an order terminating
the parental rights of both Kathy and Steven. The trial court
found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of
parental rights was in the children's best interest, and
the court specifically considered the likelihood that the
children would be adopted, as well as the potential harm of
returning them to the custody of their parents as required by
Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-341(b)(3)(A)(i) &
(ii). With respect to ...