FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72JV-17-911],
HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
Corbyn, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
D. VAUGHT, Judge
Rhiannon Grimwood appeals the Washington County Circuit
Courts order terminating her parental rights to her son,
N.H. On appeal, she only challenges the courts denial of her
motion to continue the termination hearing. We affirm.
Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) assumed emergency
custody of N.H. when he was nine days old after he was born
prematurely with methamphetamine, amphetamine, cannabinoids,
and Nephridine in his system. Grimwood admitted that she had
used drugs while pregnant and had attempted to visit him in
the NICU while under the influence. N.H. was adjudicated
dependent-neglected and was placed in the care of his
grandmother, who also had custody of his siblings. This case
proceeded through the standard series of permanency-planning
and review hearings and related orders. Grimwood failed to
appear at multiple hearings, her whereabouts were sometimes
unknown, shew was described by witnesses as "very
unstable," she was incarcerated for part of the case,
and she did not work the case plan.
January 10, 2019, the circuit court convened a hearing on
DHSs petition to terminate Grimwoods parental rights.
Grimwood requested new counsel, stating that her counsel had
failed to communicate with her during her incarceration and
that counsels subsequent illness further limited their
communication. The court appointed a new attorney for
Grimwood and granted her a three-week extension of the
termination hearing. Grimwoods new counsel was present in
court when a new date was set for the termination hearing,
and she did not object or ask for additional time to prepare
for the hearing.
However, thirteen days later, Grimwoods new attorney sought
a second continuance, stating that she needed additional time
to "compile records" and "prepare
testimony," noting that Grimwood had recently moved from
Washington County to Pine Bluff. DHS opposed the continuance
and argued that it was contrary to the Juvenile Codes goal
of permanency for the child and that Grimwood had an
established pattern of not appearing for scheduled hearings
in the case and not working the case plan. DHS argued that it
was inappropriate under the Juvenile Code to grant a parents
request for additional time solely on the basis of
eleventh-hour overtures toward participating in the case
plan. The attorney ad litem also opposed the request for
additional time. The court denied the motion to continue.
January 31, 2019, the court convened a second hearing on
DHSs petition to terminate Grimwoods parental rights. At
the outset of the hearing, her counsel again requested a
continuance, stating that Grimwood wished to be present to
testify in person but had entered an in-patient
drug-treatment program two days prior to the hearing and
therefore could not appear in court. Grimwood was, however,
available to testify by phone. Counsel asked that the court
allow Grimwood additional time to complete the forty-five-day
drug-treatment program before resuming the termination
hearing. DHS objected to the continuance and argued that
eleventh-hour overtures toward working the case plan would
not be enough to overcome the evidence supporting
termination. The court denied the motion, finding that N.H.
had been in foster care for fourteen months and needed
permanency, stating that "we dont count the final
months before [termination] to keep the goal
the hearing, Grimwood testified via telephone. DHS also
presented evidence that N.H. was in the custody of his
grandmother, who also had custody of his siblings and who
wished to adopt him. Following the hearing, the court
terminated Grimwoods parental rights. She has appealed that
order, but she raises no challenges to the courts findings
as to statutory grounds or ...