FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FJV-2017-392] HONORABLE ANNIE POWELL HENDRICKS, JUDGE.
Bowers Lee, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for
K. Howard, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor child.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE.
Thacker appeals the Sebastian County Circuit Court order
terminating his parental rights to his daughter, B.T. (D.O.B.
6/3/11). On appeal, he argues that the circuit court erred by
terminating his parental rights because there was
insufficient evidence to support a statutory ground for
termination. We affirm.
September 8, 2017, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and
dependency-neglect over B.T. The petition named Thacker as
the legal father and Rachel Heydorn as the
mother. In the affidavit attached to the petition,
DHS alleged that Heydorn had been arrested and that Heydorn
had informed officers that B.T. was living with the
child's father, Jeremy Taylor. However, a family-service
worker discovered that Thacker, not Taylor, was listed as the
father on B.T.'s birth certificate. When the
family-service worker interviewed Taylor, Taylor explained
that Heydorn had been married to Thacker at the time of
B.T.'s birth, but that he, Taylor, is B.T.'s
biological father. The affidavit further stated that a
family-service worker verified during Heydorn's
background check that she had been married to Thacker from
January 5, 2010, through February 17, 2012. DHS placed a
seventy-two-hour hold on B.T. because Taylor did not have
legal custody of the child. The court entered an ex parte
order for emergency custody on September 8, 2017, and on
September 13, the court found probable cause for the
November 6, the court adjudicated B.T. dependent-neglected
based on Heydorn's parental unfitness and inadequate
supervision. Thacker appeared at the hearing with counsel.
The court found the allegations in the petition for emergency
custody true and correct. Specifically, the court found
Thacker to be the "non-custodial parent who is a legal
parent" and that he did not contribute to the
dependency-neglect of B.T. However, the court found that
Thacker was not a fit parent because he had not attempted to
visit B.T. and had admitted using marijuana. The court set
the case goal as reunification, awarded Thacker visitation,
and ordered him to comply with the case plan.
March 28 and April 25, 2018, the court held a review hearing.
The court found that Thacker had completed parenting classes
but had displayed concerning behavior during visitation. The
court set concurrent goals of reunification and adoption, and
it ordered Thacker to comply with the case plan.
25, the court held a permanency-planning hearing. Thacker
appeared at the hearing with his court-appointed counsel and
his attorney ad litem. The court found that Thacker was
living in a one-bedroom house and had reported that he was
employed but had not offered proof of employment. The court
noted that he had completed parenting classes and had visited
B.T. but that he had acted inappropriately during visitation
and had failed to cooperate when corrected. The court found
that Thacker did not have the ability to improve or learn
from services. The court ordered DHS to make a referral for
genetic testing for Thacker, and it changed the goal of the
case to termination of parental rights.
August 28, DHS filed a petition to terminate Thacker's
parental rights, and the court held a termination hearing on
October 31. Thacker appeared in person and by his
court-appointed counsel and his attorney ad litem. He
testified that he is B.T.'s father and that he wanted
full custody of the child. When asked whether he had
requested a DNA test to establish his paternity, he responded
that the law does not require a DNA test and that he did not
want a test. He testified that he signed B.T.'s birth
certificate and that he had written 500 letters requesting
full custody of the child. Thacker further stated that he had
been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was thirteen
years old and that he had continuously taken his medication
during the case.
Tuck-Duty, the family-service worker, testified that when
Heydorn was arrested, B.T. was living with Taylor but that
B.T. is not related to Taylor. When asked whether B.T. was
born while Thacker and Heydorn were married, Tuck-Duty
stated, "From my understanding, it was during, the child
was born during their marriage."
closing statements, Thacker's ad litem stated,
I would also like to add, just for purposes of the record,
that at the last hearing . . . I had specifically wanted a
DNA test for my client, and I determined that that would be
in his best interest, as his guardian ad litem, specifically
because if he was not the father, then that would absolve him
of having a possible involuntary termination on him for a
child that may or may not be his. If the Court recalls, I
just want to put on the record that my client, Mr. Thacker,
specifically said he didn't want a DNA test, and so that
was not due to Mr. Post ...