Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Divisions II, III, IV
JESSE AUSTIN DALE BALLARD AND HAILEE DANIELLE BALLARD APPELLANTS
CURTIS DANIEL HOWARD APPELLEE
FROM THE WHITE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 73PR-17-149]
HONORABLE CRAIG HANNAH, JUDGE.
J. Reece, for appellant.
Austin Ballard filed a petition to adopt his wife's,
Hailee Ballard's, five-year-old son, BLH. The child's
biological father, Curtis Howard, contested the adoption.
After a hearing, the lower court denied the petition. It
found that Howard had failed to support his child for a
twelve-month period despite having some income but
nevertheless denied the adoption petition, finding that to do
so would not be in the child's best interest. On appeal,
the Ballards argue that the court erred in finding that the
adoption was not in BLH's best interest. We affirm.
court heard the following testimony. Curtis Howard testified
that he was sixteen when BLH was born out of wedlock, and
that he was currently in jail for robbery and aggravated
assault. He anticipated his release in 2021. Curtis testified
that he loves his son and wants to be a part of BLH's
life when he gets out of jail.
Ballard testified next. She testified that she was seventeen
when BLH was born. Shortly after BLH was born, Hailee and
Curtis lived first with her mother, then with Curtis's
mother (Donna Posey), and then back with her mother before
they quit dating and Hailee got her own place.
to Hailee, Curtis was "a deadbeat" who didn't
have a job, drew Social Security, and used drugs. She said
that during the first year of BLH's life, her mother and
Curtis's mother helped support them. She testified that
after she and Curtis broke up, he did not contribute to
raising BLH. She testified that her husband, Austin, loves
BLH and has raised him as his own. In response to the
court's questioning, Hailee further discussed that BLH
had seen Curtis's mother frequently, "as well as
that side of the family," and that Donna has a good
relationship with BLH. She testified that BLH sees
Curtis's family and has a good relationship with the
Howard family, and if that relationship were to stop, it
would be detrimental to the child. She said she doesn't
have any obligation to let Curtis's family see the child
but that she does "out of the benefit of my child having
all the family he can to love him." She said that
severing ties between BLH and the Howard side of the family
"would just crush him."
court heard testimony from Austin Ballard. Austin said that
he has been a part of BLH's life since BLH was born. He
testified that Curtis used to do a lot of drugs and never
helped Hailee with BLH. Austin talked about how, when BLH was
a baby, he would get up with him in the middle of the night
to feed him and change his diapers. He taught BLH to ride a
bike. He is very willing to establish a parent-child
relationship with BLH.
maternal grandmother, Shirley Willard, testified that Hailee
and Austin live with her. Shirley described Hailee and Austin
as very good parents. She stated that Austin treats BLH as if
he is his own son and that they have a father-son bond.
Shirley stated that Hailee and Donna are friends and that
there was no indication that Hailee would not allow Donna
continued visitation with BLH if the adoption were granted.
Posey, Curtis's mother, testified that she and BLH have a
special relationship and that Hailee and Curtis lived with
her for about six months after BLH was born. When BLH was
two, Donna kept him every other weekend. She loves BLH and he
is closely bonded with her and other members of her side of
court ruled from the bench at the conclusion of the hearing:
In order for an adoption to be granted, you need a consent of
the biological parent, or ties having been severed, or a
waiver of consent. And it would be the finding in the