Rehearing Denied January 15, 2020
FROM THE PERRY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 53JV-17-11],
HONORABLE PATRICIA JAMES, JUDGE
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, for appellants.
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 childrens 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 courts 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 Jacklyns 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 DHSs 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
Jacklyns 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
Jacklyns 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 Jacklyns
"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 Jacklyns and
Micahs 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.
childrens 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 courts 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 courts findings
unless they are clearly erroneous.
Whitt v. Ark. Dept 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 departments
filing a petition for termination of parental rights unless:
(A) The juvenile is being cared for by a relative and the