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In re S.L.B.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 8, 2013

In the Interest of S.L.B., A Minor.

Page 1240

Joseph Preston Durr, W. Brady Kellems, Brookhaven, attorneys for appellants.

Francis Jones, appellant, pro se.

Before IRVING, P.J., CARLTON and JAMES, JJ.

IRVING, P.J.

¶ 1. This case arises out of a custody dispute between Erica and David Smith,[1] S.L.B.'s foster parents, and Francis Jones, S.L.B.'s biological grandmother. On May 23, 2012, the Pike County Youth Court awarded Jones physical and legal custody of S.L.B., terminated the Smiths' court-ordered visitation, and ordered the Smiths to pay $268.50 of the guardian ad litem's [2] (GAL) fees. The Smiths appeal and argue tat the youth court erred in terminating their court-ordered visitation without finding that a material change in circumstances had occurred. They also contend that the court erred in assessing them one-half [3] of the GAL's fees.

¶ 2. Finding that the youth court judge did not err in terminating the Smiths' visitation rights, but erred in assessing the Smiths a portion of the GAL's fees, we affirm in part and reverse and render in part.

FACTS

¶ 3. On September 27, 2010, the Smiths executed a contract with the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS), acknowledging, among other things, that by placing a child in their home for foster care, DHS did not confer any right to the custody of that child to the Smiths. The contract further stated:

We agree to cooperate with [DHS] in carrying out [DHS's] plans for any foster child placed in [our] home, including the plan to return a child to his/her parents, to transfer a child to another foster home or institution, or any other plan which [DHS] may have.

Soon after, S.L.B. was placed in the Smiths' home. During the permanency hearing [4] on January 11, 2012, the youth court held that it was in S.L.B.'s best interest to be in Jones's custody for the three months leading up to the review hearing, and not in the custody of DHS. The youth court also granted the Smiths visitation with S.L.B. every other weekend. After the review hearing, in its final order, the youth court gave Jones full custody of S.L.B., terminated the visitation previously granted to the Smiths, and ordered the Smiths to pay $268.50 to the GAL within sixty days.

Page 1241

¶ 4. Additional facts, as necessary, will be related during our discussion and analysis of the issues.

DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF THE ISSUES

¶ 5. A youth court judgment will not be reversed by an appellate court unless the judgment is manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous, or an erroneous legal standard was applied. In ...


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