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In re Guardianship of C.B.F.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 8, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF C.B.F., A MINOR: PAUL FOUNTAIN APPELLANT
v.
HOLLEE FOUNTAIN REON, CLAYTON KEETON, AND ARMONDA FOUNTAIN APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/05/2017

          LAUDERDALE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. JERRY G. MASON TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: LESLIE C. GATES.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: GEORGE H. SPINKS.

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Paul Fountain, the maternal grandfather of C.B.F., hereinafter referred to as Carter, [1] appeals the chancellor's application of the natural-parent presumption and award of custody to his daughter, Hollee Fountain Reon, Carter's mother. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Hollee, born in 1998, is the daughter of Paul and Armonda Fountain. Hollee and Clayton Keeton are the natural parents of Carter, a male child born in 2013.[2] Shortly after Carter's birth, Hollee was admitted to a mental-health center for approximately two weeks to receive inpatient treatment for post-partum depression.

         ¶3. Following the birth of Carter, Hollee and Carter lived with Armonda in Meridian. Hollee's boyfriend, Travis, would occasionally stay with her at Armonda's residence. Paul would visit with Carter on the weekends.

         ¶4. On June 12, 2013, Armonda filed a "petition for appointment of temporary guardians for minors" in the Chancery Court of Lauderdale County. The petition, which Hollee joined, sought the appointment of Armonda "as temporary guardian of [Carter] until such time as the mother of said minor, [Hollee], c[ould] demonstrate to th[e] [c]ourt that she [wa]s ready and capable of caring for said minor."

         ¶5. In September 2013, Hollee, Carter, and Travis left Armonda's residence after an argument over money. They moved into Paul's residence in Collinsville. Approximately two weeks later, Hollee, Carter, and Travis went to Paul's mother's house in Picayune, where they stayed for three weeks. According to Hollee, upon her return to Paul's residence, Paul informed her that she could "take [Carter] and go to Vicksburg or stay [t]here and go to East Mississippi State Hospital." That night, Paul took Hollee and Travis to Travis's parents' house in Vicksburg. However, when Paul failed to bring Carter to her, Hollee returned to Meridian. Upon Hollee's return, Paul informed her that she could not have Carter; that he had custody of him.

         ¶6. Unbeknownst to Hollee or Armonda, Paul had initiated custody proceedings in the Lauderdale County Youth Court. On October 1, 2013, a shelter hearing was held "based upon a[n] affidavit alleging that [Armonda] ha[d] kicked [Hollee] out of her household and [Hollee] has a 6[-]month[-old] infant to care for as well." Following the shelter hearing, a temporary placement judgment was entered, which awarded temporary physical and legal custody of Hollee to Paul.

         ¶7. A second shelter hearing was held on October 22, 2013, wherein Paul claimed that Hollee had run away from his home with her boyfriend, leaving Carter with him. Following the shelter hearing, the youth court temporarily placed physical and legal custody of Carter with Paul.

         ¶8. On October 11, 2013, the chancery court, also unaware of the youth court proceedings, granted Armonda's petition for temporary guardianship and appointed Armonda as temporary guardian of and over Carter.[3] The chancellor noted that Clayton had been notified of and approved the appointment. The chancellor further noted that the temporary guardianship covered physical custody only. The chancellor ordered yearly status reviews of the guardianship.

         ¶9. On November 18, 2013, Hollee's attorney wrote a letter to the youth court seeking clarification of the proceedings. Thereafter, on December 19, 2013, the youth court entered a judgment transferring jurisdiction to the chancery court and acknowledged that it "was not informed of any pending [g]uardianship . . . ." As a result of the transfer, an adjudication hearing was never heard in the youth court.

         ¶10. Following the transfer of jurisdiction to chancery court, Carter remained in Paul's custody. Paul filed a complaint for relief from judgment pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), as well as a counterclaim for guardianship or, in the alternative, a petition for change of guardian and/or for modification of guardianship.

         ¶11. Hollee and Armonda filed a motion for visitation with Carter. Following a hearing, the chancellor granted temporary visitation between Hollee and Carter to be supervised by Armonda. Hollee became emancipated on ...


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