OF JUDGMENT: 10/25/2017
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. EDWARD C. FENWICK JUDGE.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: KENNETH DUSTIN MARKHAM
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CARRIE A. JOURDAN
CARLTON, P.J., GREENLEE AND McCARTY, JJ.
In this custody dispute between the natural father and the
maternal grandfather, the chancery court granted custody to
the grandfather, finding that the grandfather overcame the
natural-parent presumption and that the grandfather's
custody served the best interest of the minor children.
Finding no error, we affirm.
Thomas Jarrod Seale (Jarrod) and Haley Thompson Seale had two
boys, one born in 2009 and the other in 2010. Jarrod and
Haley separated in early 2010, and Haley and the oldest son
moved in with her father, William Grady Thompson (Grady).
Haley and Jarrod's other son was born later that year.
Haley and Jarrod divorced. Because of his ongoing drug
addiction Jarrod's visitation with his sons was limited
to supervised visits.
In June 2013, Haley died in Georgia while undergoing
treatment for cancer. At the time, Haley and the boys were
living with her mother, Melanie Lindsey. Melanie had
temporary custody of the boys for several months after
Haley's death. Grady was ultimately awarded temporary
custody, and Jarrod was awarded visitation. Both boys have
lived with Grady for the majority of their lives.
Jarrod had been previously convicted of felonies-two in 2010
in Arkansas for drug- related crimes,  and another in
2012 in Mississippi for obtaining a controlled substance by
fraud. He served five years of probation for the Arkansas
convictions and approximately nine months in jail for the
Mississippi conviction. Prior to his Mississippi conviction,
Jarrod had voluntarily entered a drug rehabilitation center.
He was indicted on the prescription-fraud charge prior to
finishing the required fourteen-month stay at the center, but
after serving his sentence, Jarrod returned to the
rehabilitation center to finish the program.
Because of his drug abuse and incarceration, Jarrod was an
absent father for the first several years of his sons'
lives. He saw them intermittently, and only began paying
child support in August 2014 after being ordered to do so by
the chancery court. At that point Jarrod owed $13, 760 in
child support, so the chancery court ordered him to pay an
additional $140 per month to cover the back child support.
There was some confusion during trial about whether
Jarrod's child-support payments were current. Both Grady
and Jarrod stated that he was current in his monthly
child-support payments, but he had not paid off the
arrearage. Grady further testified that Jarrod's
child-support payments had consistently been late. For
example, Lisa Seale, Jarrod's current wife, made six
over-due monthly payments within one month's time right
Grady testified that Jarrod began exercising visitation with
the boys after the 2014 order and continued to do so until
the hearing. Grady stated that the boys loved ...