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Danes v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

September 18, 2019

Aric DANES, Appellant
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and Minor Child, Appellees

Page 732

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 733

          APPEAL FROM THE JOHNSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 36JV-17-53], HONORABLE, JUDGE KEN D. COKER, JR.

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

          One brief only.

         OPINION

         MEREDITH B. SWITZER, Judge.

          Aric Danes appeals the Johnson County Circuit Court’s termination of his parental rights to his daughter, J.W., born April 18, 2017.[1] Pursuant to Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services, 359 Ark. 131, 194 S.W.3d 739 (2004), and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i), his counsel has filed a no-merit brief setting forth all adverse rulings from the termination hearing and asserting there are no issues that would support a meritorious appeal. Counsel has also filed a motion asking to be allowed to withdraw. The clerk of this court notified Danes of his right to file pro se points. Danes has filed no pro se points. We affirm the order terminating Danes’s parental rights and grant counsel’s motion to withdraw.

          I. Standard of Review

          Termination of parental rights is a two-step process requiring a determination that the parent is unfit and that termination is in the best interest of the child. Rylie v. Ark. Dep’t of Human Servs., 2018 Ark.App. 366, 554 S.W.3d 275. The first step requires proof of one or more statutory grounds for termination; the second step, the best-interest analysis, includes consideration of the likelihood that the juvenile will be adopted, and the potential harm caused by returning custody of the child to the parent. Id. Each step requires proof by clear and convincing evidence, which is the degree of proof that will produce in the factfinder a firm conviction regarding the allegation sought to be established. Id.

          Appellate review for parental termination cases is de novo, and our inquiry on appeal is whether the circuit court’s finding that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing evidence is clearly erroneous. Griffin v. Ark. Dep’t of Human Servs., 2017 Ark.App. 635, 2017 WL 5762415. 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. Id. In resolving the clearly erroneous question, the reviewing court defers to the circuit court because of its superior opportunity to observe the parties and to judge the credibility of witnesses. Id.

          II. Facts

          On July 20, 2017, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect with respect to J.W. The affidavit attached to the petition averred that J.W. was removed from the custody of her mother, Katherina Waugh, on July 17, 2017. Waugh and J.W. had been living with Danes, who was identified as Waugh’s boyfriend and J.W.’s putative father. There was ...


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