FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, TENTH DIVISION [NO.
60JV-17-928] HONORABLE JOYCE WILLIAMS WARREN, JUDGE
Tabitha McNulty, Arkansas Commission for Parent Counsel, for
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad
litem for minor children.
WAYMOND M. BROWN, JUDGE
Stormy Gipson appeals from the order of the Pulaski County
Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her
children, B.V. and H.B. On appeal, appellant argues that the
circuit court abused its discretion when it denied her motion
for continuance at the termination hearing. We affirm.
August 21, 2017, the Arkansas Department of Human Services
(DHS) filed a petition for emergency custody and
dependency-neglect. Attached to the petition was the
affidavit of the DHS caseworker, which stated that on August
18, the child-abuse hotline received a report alleging that
appellant was going to jail following a "drug bust"
in the home. Sergeant Travis Cummings confirmed that
appellant was being charged with possession of
methamphetamine with purpose to deliver, simultaneous
possession of drugs and guns, maintaining a drug premises,
felony possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony child
endangerment. Appellant admitted to the caseworker that she
had been selling drugs out of the home in the presence of her
minor children. Appellant tested positive for THC,
methamphetamine, and amphetamine. Appellant expressed a
desire for her children to be placed in the care of her
mother, Joanne Gipson, who also resided in the home; however,
Joanne also tested positive for methamphetamine and
amphetamine. An emergency order was entered that same day
placing the children in the custody of DHS. A probable-cause
order was entered the following day continuing the children
in the legal custody of DHS.
September 7, 2017, the circuit court adjudicated B.V. and
H.B. dependent-neglected due to neglect and parental
unfitness by appellant. After holding two review hearings and
a permanency-planning hearing, the circuit court changed the
case goal to adoption and authorized DHS to file a petition
to terminate parental rights. On August 27, 2018, DHS filed
the termination petition.
termination hearing was scheduled for October 17, 2018. On
October 11, DHS requested a continuance because H.B.'s
father had not been properly served with the termination
petition. In granting the motion, the circuit court noted
that B.V.'s putative father had also not been properly
served with notice. The termination hearing was rescheduled
for November 29.
November 29, the termination hearing was again continued
until January 17, 2019, as a result of the court's
finding that all parties had still not been properly served
with the notices to which they were entitled, specifically
noting that the warning order for B.V.'s putative father
termination hearing held on January 17, 2019, appellant's
counsel requested a continuance because appellant had been
extradited to Texas on a parole violation and could not
provide testimony via telephone as "Texas has no
interstate phone system to allow testimony by inmates."
Counsel argued that appellant "deserves a right to put
on her defense"; however, he acknowledged that although
the continuance request was for three months, it was unclear
if appellant would be released from the Texas facility within
that time frame.
the ad litem both opposed the continuance request, noting
that the termination petition had already been pending for
eight to nine months, and the children had a need for
permanency. The circuit court denied the motion and proceeded
with the termination hearing.
January 31, 2019, the circuit court entered an order
terminating appellant's parental rights to B.V. and H.B.
on five statutory grounds: (1) failure to remedy, (2) failure
to provide significant material support and maintain
meaningful contact, (3) abandonment, (4) subsequent factors,
and (5) aggravated circumstances. The circuit court further
found that termination was in the children's best
interest considering both the likelihood of adoption and the
risk of potential harm to the children if returned to
appellant. She now appeals from the termination order.
appeal, appellant does not challenge the sufficiency of the
evidence supporting the statutory grounds for termination of
her parental rights or the circuit court's best-interest
findings. She argues only that the circuit court erred ...