State v. Daniels, 101602 TNCIV, M2001-00624-COA-R3-JV

Docket Nº:M2001-00624-COA-R3-JV
Party Name:State v. Daniels
Case Date:October 16, 2002
Court:Court of Appeals of Tennessee
 
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STATE OF TENNESSEE

v.

TAMBERLEY LORRAINE DANIELS

No. M2001-00624-COA-R3-JV

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

Filed

October 16, 2002

Assigned on Briefs January 16, 2002

Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Hickman County

No. 00-1280C Samuel H. Smith, Judge

Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile Court Affirmed

William B. Cain, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Ben H. Cantrell, P.J. and Patricia J. Cottrell, J., joined.

John P. Cauley, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tamberley Lorraine Daniels.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; and Elizabeth, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services.

The non-custodial parent of two minor girls appeals the decision of the Juvenile Court of Hickman County terminating her parental rights on the grounds of willful abandonment. We affirm the action of the trial court.

OPINION

Tamberley Daniels married Jeff Carroll in 1986. At the time, Ms. Daniels had one daughter, A., whom Mr. Carroll adopted. C. was afterwards born to the marriage of Jeff Carroll and Tamberley Daniels. In 1991, Ms. Daniels left Mr. Carroll, and the parties were divorced in 1993. Ms. Daniels has not seen A. or C. since she separated from Mr. Carroll in 1991. In January 1993, Ms. Daniels pled guilty to two counts of statutory rape, same being the result of a game of "truth or dare" with a group of teenagers. In May 1993, the Final Decree of Divorce was entered providing that Mr. Carroll was to have custody of A. and C. and that Ms. Daniels was to have no visitation with them.

In September 1998, A. and C. were taken into state custody because they had both been sexually abused by their father, Jeff Carroll. Ms. Daniels first became aware that her children were in state custody when she was sued by the state for child support in June of 1999.

On June 15, 2000, the Department filed a petition to terminate Ms. Daniels' parental rights, Jeff Carroll having already surrendered his parental rights. The case was tried before the Juvenile Court of Hickman County on December 6, 2000, and on January 29, 2001, the trial court entered an Order terminating the parental rights of Tamberley Daniels and making extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law as follows:

At the time of this hearing on December 6, 2000, [A.] Carroll is fourteen (14) years of age and [C.] Carroll is ten (10) years of age. The proof is undisputed that during the time period from Ms. Daniels' marriage to Mr. Jeff Carroll, the children's biological father, shortly after the birth of [A.] Carroll on May 10, 1986, through these parties' divorce on May 11, 1993, Ms. Daniels not only abused the children, i.e., Mr. Gary Carroll testified that Ms. Daniels had bitten [C.] Carroll which resulted in a referral to and an investigation by the Department at that time, but Ms. Daniels also physically abandoned her children by leaving them in the care of Mr. Carroll and/or the children's paternal grandparents, Gary and Joyce Carroll, for months at a time. It is further undisputed that Ms. Daniels left her husband and her children for the final time during 1991 and has not seen her children since that time. [A.] Carroll was approximately five (5) years old, and [C.] Carroll was approximately eighteen (18) months old. Moreover, it is significant to note that Ms. Daniels voluntarily gave up physical custody of her children and voluntarily agreed to relinquish any and all visitation privileges with her children in the parties' Final Judgment of divorce filed with the Chancery Court of Hickman County, Tennessee, on May 11, 1993. Although said Final Judgment reflects the language "at this time," it is further undisputed that Ms. Daniels has never had a job and in fact has been receiving disability income since 1989. The Final Judgment further provided that inasmuch as Ms. Daniels was unable to provide for her children, no child support was set. It is also significant to note that on January 26, 1993, Ms. Daniels pled guilty to two (2) counts of statutory rape involving other non-related minor children and received a sentence of probation, community service and a requirement to obtain psychological counseling.

In late September, 1998, the Department removed these children from their biological father, Jeff Carroll, as the result of allegations of sexual abuse by Mr. Carroll against the children. The Department in its pleadings alleged that the whereabouts of Ms. Daniels was unknown at the time. Thereafter, in scheduling a Staffing to discuss a Permanency Plan for the children, in October, 1998, the Department's notice to Ms. Daniel's last known address was returned to the Department with the notation "insufficient address." The Department was therefore unable to locate Ms. Daniels. The children were placed in foster care at that time and continue to remain the legal custody of the Department. During July 1999, Ms. Daniels was served with a petition seeking child support by the State of Tennessee due to the fact that her children were in the custody of the Department. Ms. Halbrooks testified that she received her first contact from Ms. Daniels on or about November 30, 1999. Ms. Daniels requested a visit with [A.]. Ms. Halbrooks further testified that due to the Chancery Court Final Judgment wherein Ms. Daniels did not receive visitation privileges, as well as the fact that Ms. Daniels had pled guilty to statutory rape charges in 1993, and lastly, because Ms. Daniels had not seen her children since 1991, that the Department's position was that Ms. Daniels could not have a visit with [A.] and that Ms. Daniels needed to obtain an attorney. Ms. Halbrooks did ask and receive from Ms. Daniels her current address and phone number; however, Ms. Daniels hung up on Ms. Halbrooks. It was not until April, 2000, that Ms. Daniels again contacted the Department in response to a notification from the Department. During April and May, 2000, Ms. Halbrooks did discuss with Ms. Daniels that if in fact Ms. Daniels was indigent and could not afford an attorney, a procedure existed for Ms. Daniels to ask the Court for an attorney. Ms. Halbrooks forwarded to Ms. Daniels an Affidavit of Indigency and informed Ms. Daniels that she needed to fill it out and take it to the Courthouse in an attempt to obtain a court-appointed attorney. Ms. Daniels did not complete the form and take it to the Courthouse. It was not until the Department filed the Petition to Terminate Parental Rights on June 15, 2000, to which was attached instructions to Ms. Daniels regarding the appointment of an attorney, that Ms. Daniels contacted the undersigned relative...

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