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In re J. V. J.

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 30, 2014

In the Interest of J. V. J., a child

Page 390

Termination of parental rights. Houston Juvenile Court. Before Judge Edwards.

Greg H. Bell, for appellant.

Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Shalen S. Nelson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Calandra A. Harps, Assistant Attorney General, Walter G. Sammons, for appellee.

Dillard, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Miller, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 391

Dillard, Judge.

The mother of a minor child, J. V. J., appeals from an order of the Juvenile Court of Houston County terminating her parental rights and its subsequent denial of her motion for a new trial, arguing that the court lacked clear and convincing evidence to support its finding that the cause of her child's deprivation was likely to continue. For the reasons set forth infra, we reverse.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the juvenile court's findings,[1] the evidence showed that J. V. J. was born on September 25, 2012, and was immediately removed from her mother's custody bye the Department of Family and Children Services (" the Department" ) because her mother previously lost parental rights to three other children and had a history of instability and drug use. Nine months later, on June 26, 2013, the juvenile court held a termination hearing, during which the mother admitted that she used crack cocaine two or three times per week for ten years. The mother contended, however, that her drug use ceased when she learned that she was pregnant with J. V. J. in March 2012.[2] Further, the mother testified that she had no relationship with five of her six children, and that her parental rights as to three of those children were terminated.

The mother visited J. V. J. regularly since her birth and, even though the Department never provided her with a case plan, she independently decided to attend a 15-week parenting course, complete an outpatient substance-abuse program, earn her high-school [329 Ga.App. 422] diploma, and enroll in college to become a medical assistant. Regarding her finances, the mother testified that she received a Pell Grant and student loans for school and, if J. V. J. were returned to her, that she could apply for temporary assistance for needy families. Further, the mother explained that she was trying to " get [her] life together and be a better mom" and, as she would be unable to have other children, she wanted to prove that she could care for J. V. J.

The evidence also shows that, although the mother had been unemployed for the last ten years,[3] she had lived in the same apartment for approximately two years (since July 18, 2011). The mother's boyfriend moved in with her shortly after J. V. J. was born, and he paid most of their living expenses. And while the mother and boyfriend knew that the boyfriend was not J. V. J.'s biological father, they nevertheless signed an acknowledgment of legitimacy, indicating that he was the father.

On September 27, 2012, two days after J. V. J.'s birth, the mother and her boyfriend tested positive for cocaine and, on May 21, 2013, the boyfriend tested positive a second time. Three weeks later, in June 2013, the boyfriend paid for an independent drug test and, this time, he tested negative for cocaine. The technician who administered the May test testified that the boyfriend's positive drug test in May showed a low level of cocaine, indicating that " he was trying to quit" or " cut down some." The evidence presented below further shows that, in March 2013, the boyfriend successfully completed a substance-abuse program.

The director of a women's rehabilitation center testified that the mother had enrolled in an outpatient substance-abuse program. And while she had been noncompliant in the past, the mother had done " exceptionally well" in the program this time. Indeed, she ceased using drugs in October 2012, and since then, tested negative for drugs 32 times. Moreover, when the mother ...


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