Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Guardianship of T.N.W.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 17, 2019

IN THE GUARDIANSHIP OF T.N.W., A MINOR:
v.
DYRENE OWENS AND DONALD OWENS APPELLEES FARRAH N. OWENS APPELLANT

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/06/2018

          HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. JENNIFER T. SCHLOEGEL TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: HARRY RAY LANE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: RITA MARION SILIN

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., TINDELL AND McDONALD, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. Dyrene and Donald Owens (the Owenses) filed a petition in the Harrison County Chancery Court, First Judicial District, for guardianship of their granddaughter T.N.W., hereafter referred to as Tiffany.[1] Following a hearing, the chancellor determined that clear and convincing evidence supported a finding that Farrah Owens, the Owenses' daughter and Tiffany's mother, had deserted Tiffany. The chancellor then conducted an Albright analysis[2] and concluded that third-party custody was in Tiffany's best interest. Farrah appeals the chancellor's judgment appointing the Owenses as Tiffany's guardians.

         ¶2. While placing Tiffany with her grandparents may very well have been in her best interest, we conclude that insufficient evidence supported the chancellor's finding of desertion. Because we reverse the chancellor's judgment on this ground, we decline to address Farrah's remaining assignments of error. We remand this case for further proceedings so the chancellor may determine under what basis, if any, the Owenses' guardianship of Tiffany should continue and, if so, what visitation rights Farrah should receive.

         FACTS

         ¶3. In December 2016, when Tiffany was two months old, Farrah and Tiffany moved to Gulfport, Mississippi, to live with the Owenses. On February 9, 2017, when Tiffany was four months old, the Owenses filed a petition seeking an emergency order naming them as Tiffany's guardians. On the same date, the chancellor entered an ex parte order granting the Owenses temporary legal and physical custody of Tiffany. On February 20, 2017, the chancellor entered a temporary custody order that continued to grant the Owenses temporary legal and physical custody of Tiffany but also granted Farrah reasonable visitation with Tiffany by mutual agreement with the Owenses.

         ¶4. In November 2017, the chancellor held a two-day hearing on the Owenses' guardianship petition. On March 6, 2018, the chancellor entered an order appointing the Owenses as Tiffany's guardians. The chancellor found that "Farrah's long and continuous absences, her failure to exercise her parental rights, and her failure to fulfill her parental responsibilities" provided a sufficient evidentiary basis for desertion. The chancellor then considered the Albright factors and determined that all but one of the factors favored the Owenses.[3] After concluding that it was in Tiffany's best interest to remain with the Owenses, the chancellor appointed them as Tiffany's guardians, stated that they could claim Tiffany as a dependent for income-tax purposes, and ordered Farrah to pay the Owenses $157 a month in child support until Tiffany reached the age of twenty-one or became emancipated. Aggrieved, Farrah appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶5. "A chancellor's custody decision will be reversed only if it was manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous, or if the chancellor applied an erroneous legal standard." Neely v. Welch, 194 So.3d 149, 155 (¶18) (Miss. Ct. App. 2015). Where substantial evidence supports the chancellor's findings of fact, this Court must not reweigh the evidence but must instead defer to the chancellor's findings. Id.

         ¶6. In child-custody cases, the best interest of the child is the paramount concern. Burgev. Burge, 223 So.3d 888, 899 (¶37) (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). "In custody battles between a natural parent and a third party, it is presumed that it is in the child's best interest to remain with his or her natural parent." Id. (quoting Smith v. Smith, 97 So.3d 43, 46 (ΒΆ8) (Miss. 2012)). Thus, a "third party must first clearly rebut the natural-parent ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.