FROM THE PERRY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 53JV-17-11]
HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE
Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, for
Standridge, for appellee, Jacklyn Gabbard.
J. GLADWIN, Judge
CG, KG, and MG2, minor children,  appeal the September 14,
2018 order of the Perry County Circuit Court granting their
permanent custody to Lawrence and Melissa Gabbard, paternal
uncle and aunt, and closing the dependency-neglect case that
appellee Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) had
brought against the children's parents, Jacklyn and Micah
Gabbard. The children also appeal the October 23,
2018 order denying their motion for relief from judgment.
They argue on appeal that the circuit court's order
should be reversed because (1) the circuit court failed to
make a not-best-interest finding; (2) no written home study
was presented to the court; and (3) the circuit court failed
to give the statutorily required notice that the case would
be closed. DHS did not file a responsive brief, but Jacklyn
did. We affirm.
took emergency custody of the children on September 20, 2017,
due to Jacklyn's erratic behavior and suspected drug use.
An ex parte petition and order for emergency custody and
dependency-neglect that placed the children in DHS custody
was filed on September 22. The September 25 probable-cause
order continued them in DHS's custody but mentioned a
provisional placement with a relative.
children were adjudicated dependent-neglected as a result of
parental unfitness and neglect by Jacklyn in an order filed
November 8. That order states that Micah contributed to the
dependency-neglect by agreeing to leave the children in
Jacklyn's care following their divorce, knowing her drug
history. In the review order of March 7, 2018, the court
indicated that the case goal was reunification with a
concurrent goal of relative placement or guardianship. The
circuit court found that the children should remain out of
Jacklyn's custody and noted that they were in the foster
home of their aunt and uncle.
children filed a motion to suspend visitation and for no
contact against Jacklyn on April 6, 2018. The motion was
premised on safety concerns due to Jacklyn's
"increasingly erratic behavior and desperation."
Jacklyn filed a response on April 20, asking the court to
deny the motion. The court entered an order on April 23,
suspending visitation and ordering no contact between Jacklyn
and the children.
permanency-planning hearing (PPH) took place on August 27. At
the hearing, DHS, the attorney ad litem, MG1, Lawrence, and
Melissa all advocated for the termination of Jacklyn's
and Micah's parental rights over permanent custody. The
circuit court took the testimony under advisement. It issued
a PPH order and an order of permanent custody on September
14, granting permanent custody to Lawrence and Melissa
Gabbard and closing the case.
children's behalf, the attorney ad litem filed a motion
for relief from judgment, decree, or order pursuant to Rule
60 of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure on September 24.
Jacklyn filed a response on October 8, asking the circuit
court to dismiss the motion. A notice of appeal was filed on
October 12, appealing the circuit court's September 14
order granting permanent custody. The circuit court entered
an order on October 23, denying the Rule 60 motion. An
amended notice of appeal was filed on November 2, appealing
both the September 14 and October 23 orders.
Applicable Law and Standard of Review
court reviews findings in dependency-neglect proceedings de
novo, but we will not reverse the circuit court's
findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Whitt v. Ark.
Dep't of Human Servs., 2014 Ark.App. 449, at 4, 441
S.W.3d 33, 35. 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. We give great
deference to the circuit court as it is in a far superior
position to judge the credibility of the witnesses.
Code Annotated section 9-27-338(c)(1)-(7) (Supp. 2017)
provides in pertinent part as follows:
(c) At the permanency planning hearing, based upon the facts
of the case, the circuit court shall enter one (1) of the
following permanency goals, listed in order of preference, in
accordance with the best interest, health, and safety of the
(1) Placing custody of the juvenile with a fit parent at the
permanency planning hearing;
(2) Returning the juvenile to the guardian or custodian from
whom the juvenile was initially removed at the permanency
(3) Authorizing a plan to place custody of the juvenile with
a parent, guardian, or custodian[;]
(4) Authorizing a plan for adoption with the department's
filing a petition for termination of parental rights unless:
(A) The juvenile is being cared for by a relative and the
court finds that:
(a) The relative has made a long-term commitment to the child
and the relative is willing to pursue guardianship or
permanent custody; or
(b) The juvenile is being cared for by his or her minor
parent who is in foster care; and
(ii) Termination of parental rights is not in the best
interest of the juvenile[.]
(B) The department has documented in the case plan a
compelling reason why filing such a petition is not in the
best interest of the juvenile and the court approves the