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Smith v. Wright

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 7, 2015

IN RE: PETITION TO TERMINATE PARENTAL RIGHTS AND FOR ADOPTION OF JENNIFER WRIGHT, A MINOR: ELENA SMITH AND STEVE SMITH, APPELLANTS
v.
AUDREY WRIGHT, APPELLEE; ELENA SMITH AND STEVE SMITH, APPELLANTS
v.
MONTI CALDWELL BISHOP, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/10/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM H. SINGLETARY. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DENIED MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION. COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/02/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM H. SINGLETARY. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: ORDERED APPELLANTS TO PAY THE UNPAID BALANCE OF THE GUARDIAN A.D. LITEM FEES AND REIMBURSE APPELLEE FOR PAST FEES PAID.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

FOR APPELLANT: TAMEKIA ROCHELLE GOLIDAY.

FOR APPELLEE: EDWARD BLACKMON.

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

OPINION

Page 738

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

LEE, C.J.

¶1. This appeal arises from a modification of child custody. Finding that the chancellor failed to make specific findings regarding each of the applicable Albright factors, we reverse and remand.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. On August 10, 2007, Audrey Wright[1] gave birth to Jennifer Wright. Prior to giving birth, Audrey approached Elena and Steve Smith about adoption. Audrey did not believe she could support the baby financially, so she decided to give the baby to the Smiths. Audrey testified that because the Smiths were family, she thought she would be able to see Jennifer. Audrey later changed her mind, and instead of allowing the Smiths to adopt Jennifer, she agreed to a guardianship. On August 22, 2007, the parties privately executed a document entitled " authorization for guardianship of minor."

¶3. It is unclear when Jennifer began to live with the Smiths. Elena testified that Audrey delivered Jennifer to her and her husband as soon as she was discharged from the hospital. Hailey Wright, Audrey's mother, testified that because Audrey was breastfeeding, she stayed with the Smiths for a time. Hailey also testified that for the first year of Jennifer's life, Jennifer stayed with her during the day when Audrey was at work or school, and with Audrey or the Smiths in the evening. Audrey testified that for the first few weeks of Jennifer's life, she was either with Jennifer at the Smiths' home or with Jennifer at Hailey's home. According to Audrey, when Jennifer was almost one year old, she allowed Jennifer to live with the Smiths. Audrey testified that she had enjoyed unfettered access to her daughter up until then, and she continued to visit Jennifer in the Smiths' home until communication started to break down shortly thereafter. Hailey testified that the Smiths stopped bringing Jennifer to her house in the mornings. Audrey and Hailey testified that the Smiths stopped answering their phone calls and returning their messages. They testified that when they went to the Smith home to see Jennifer, no one answered the door. On one occasion, Audrey sought the help of the Jackson Police Department and had a uniformed police officer escort her to the Smith home. The Smiths still did not come to the door. When baby clothes or other items were left at the Smith home for Jennifer, they were returned. Hailey testified that when she did talk to Elena, she was told they did not need anything from Audrey or Hailey.

¶4. On March 18, 2009, the Smiths filed their first petition for ...


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