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Hardiman v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

November 13, 2019

Catherine HARDIMAN, Appellant
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES and Minor Children, Appellees

Page 413

          APPEAL FROM THE COLUMBIA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 14JV-15-81], HONORABLE DAVID W. TALLEY, JR., JUDGE

          Katalina Wyninger, Alma, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

         Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.

         OPINION

         WAYMOND M. BROWN, Judge

Page 414

          Counsel for appellant Catherine Hardiman brings this no-merit appeal from the Columbia County Circuit Court’s order terminating appellant’s parental rights to her sons, D.H.1 (DOB: 02/27/05) and D.H.2 (DOB: 05/11/06). Pursuant to Linker-Flores v. Arkansas Department of Human Services [1] and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i), appellant’s counsel has filed a motion to withdraw and a no-merit brief contending that there are no meritorious issues that would support an appeal. The clerk of this court mailed a certified copy of counsel’s brief and motion to be relieved to appellant, informing her of her right to file pro se points for reversal, which she has elected to do. We affirm the termination order and grant counsel’s motion to withdraw.

          This court reviews termination-of-parental-rights cases de novo.[2] Grounds for termination of parental rights must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, which is that degree of proof that will produce in the finder of fact a firm conviction of the allegation sought to be established.[3] The appellate inquiry is whether the circuit court’s finding that the disputed fact was proved by clear and convincing evidence is clearly erroneous.[4] 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.[5] In resolving the clearly erroneous question, we give due regard to the opportunity of the circuit court to judge the credibility of witnesses.[6]

          To terminate parental rights, a circuit court must find by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the best interest of the juvenile, taking into consideration (1) the likelihood that the juvenile will be adopted if the termination petition is granted and (2) the potential harm, specifically addressing the effect on the health and safety of the child, caused by returning the child to the custody of the parent.[7] The circuit court must also find by clear and convincing evidence that one or more statutory grounds for termination exists.[8] Proof of only one statutory ground is sufficient to terminate parental rights.[9] Termination of parental rights is an extreme remedy and in derogation of a parent’s natural rights; however, parental rights will not be enforced to the detriment or destruction of the health and well-being of the child.[10] The intent behind the termination-of-parental-rights statute is to provide permanency in a child’s life when it is not possible to return the child to the family home because it is contrary to the child’s health, safety, or welfare, and a return to the family home cannot be accomplished in a reasonable period of time as viewed from the child’s perspective.[11]

         Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-9(i) allows counsel for an appellant in a termination-of-parental-rights case to file a no-merit

Page 415

petition and motion to withdraw if, after studying the record and researching the law, counsel determines that the appellant has no meritorious basis for appeal. The petition must include an argument section that lists all adverse rulings to the appellant made by the circuit court on all objections, motions, and requests made by the party at the hearing from which the appeal arose and explain why each adverse ruling is not a meritorious ground for reversal.[12]

         On October 26, 2015, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) was contacted after a call had been made to the child-abuse hotline. Following an investigation, DHS exercised a seventy-two-hour hold on D.H.1 and D.H.2, removing them from the legal custody of their mother, appellant, and the physical custody of their paternal grandmother, Debbie Daniels. On December 4, D.H.1 and D.H.2 were adjudicated dependent-neglected due to ...


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