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In re N.B.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 18, 2014

IN THE INTEREST OF N.B. AND K.B.:
v.
EUGENE BERRYMAN AND PATSY BERRYMAN, APPELLEES JERRY STEVEN BEARD AND JACKIE ELAINE BEARD, APPELLANTS

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PRENTISS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/29/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JACQUELINE ESTES MASK. TRIAL COURT DENIED APPELLANTS' MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AND/OR NEW TRIAL AND PERMITTED ADOPTION OF MINOR CHILDREN BY APPELLEES.

FOR APPELLANTS: ANTHONY RHETT WISE.

FOR APPELLEES: DUNCAN L. LOTT, THOMAS ORVILLE COOLEY.

BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND ISHEE, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING, P.J., BARNES, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. GRIFFIS, P.J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY.

OPINION

Page 221

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - ADOPTION

ISHEE, J.

¶1. This case stems from a contested adoption suit that was filed in Prentiss County Chancery Court between paternal grandparents, Steven Beard and Jackie Elaine Beard, and paternal great-grandparents, Eugene Berryman and Patsy Berryman. On November 17, 2011, the biological parents of minor twins, N.B. and

Page 222

K.B.,[1] irrevocably surrendered their rights to the minor children to the Prentiss County Department of Human Services (DHS). Subsequently, the Beards and the Berrymans filed separate complaints seeking adoption of the minor children. On August 29, 2012, the chancery court permitted the Berrymans to adopt the minor children. The Beards later filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. The Beards appealed. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. N.B. and K.B., male twins, were born to Jennifer Raines and Eric Beard in Corinth, Mississippi, on October 3, 2011. At that time, Jennifer, Eric, and their two-year-old son, C.B., were living with Eric's mother and Steven's ex-wife, Kristy Beard Rich. For the first month of the twins' lives, various family members, including the Berrymans, assisted Jennifer and Eric in caring for the twins. Jennifer and Eric mentioned to family members several times that they did not think they could care for the twins. Approximately a month following the birth of the twins, Jennifer and Eric surrendered the twins to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Booneville, Mississippi.

¶3. DHS was notified that a set of twins had been abandoned at a hospital by the biological parents who wished to put them up for adoption. DHS offered to provide assistance that would enable Jennifer and Eric to keep the children, but the couple refused. Subsequently, an emergency order was entered directing the children to be taken into custody by DHS. Pursuant to that order, the twins were placed with their paternal aunt and uncle, Chris and Lori Jones. Approximately two days later, the children were relocated to a licensed foster home in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, where they remained for approximately a week. Thereafter, DHS placed the children in the home of the Beards, who kept the children for a few days.

¶4. On November 8, 2011, the Prentiss County Youth Court executed an order instructing that a home study and background check of the Beards be completed within fourteen days. The order provided: " [G]iven no finding that the [c]hildren should not be placed with a suitable relative, the children shall be placed with the [g]randparents." An additional order was executed on November 10, 2011, instructing that a home study and background check of the Berrymans also be completed. The additional order provided:

[S]hould said background check and/or home study make no finding that the children should not be placed with these grandparents, then the Court does direct that said children shall be placed with the children's paternal grandparents, namely, Eugene and Patsy Berryman, until further orders of the Court.

The children were then placed with the Berrymans that same day. A report recommending that the children stay with the Beards was given on November 14, 2011. No other orders were entered by the youth court altering its directive for placement of the children with the Berrymans.

¶5. On November 16, 2011, the Beards filed suit in the chancery court, joining DHS as a defendant, to terminate the parental rights of the biological parents and adopt the twins. A voluntary surrender of parental rights was executed by Jennifer and Eric and attached to the Beards' petition

Page 223

on November 17, 2011. On November 21, 2011, the Berrymans filed their complaint for adoption, also joining DHS. The cases were later consolidated upon a joint motion of the parties. On February 14, 2012, Lisa A. Koon was appointed to the case as the guardian ad litem (GAL).

¶6. A trial was held on July 23, 2012. The chancery court heard testimony from all parties, as well as testimony by DHS adoption specialist Tonya McAnally, and the paternal aunt, Lori Jones. At the conclusion of the trial, the chancellor took the matter under advisement. The report and recommendation of the GAL was filed with the chancery court on August 2, 2012. Pursuant to an Albright [2] analysis, the GAL was unable to make a clear finding as to who would be the most suitable parents. However, citing the Berrymans' age as the primary factor, the GAL recommended adoption of the twins by the Beards.

¶7. After considering the evidence and conducting her own Albright analysis, the chancellor granted the Berrymans' petition for adoption on August 29, 2012. On September 13, 2012, a supplemental decree was issued, clarifying the judgment. Shortly after, the Beards filed a motion for reconsideration, requesting a new trial and raising several issues for the chancellor to review and reconsider.

¶8. In response, the chancery court conducted a hearing for oral arguments on the motion on November 15, 2012. At that time, the Beards requested that the previous trial conducted on July 23, 2012, be transcribed and reviewed prior to the issuance of a final decision. On December 27, 2012, the chancellor ...


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