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In re G. R. B.

Court of Appeals of Georgia

February 12, 2015

In the Interest of G. R. B., a child

Deprivation. Whitfield Juvenile Court. Before Judge Blaylock.

Judgment reversed.

Meriwether & Tharp, Joann Brown-Williams, for appellant.

Mitchell & Mitchell, G. Gargandi Vaughn, for appellee.

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

OPINION

Page 120

Dillard, Judge.

Jesse Bowen, the father of G. R. B., appeals the Juvenile Court of Whitfield County's order finding his son to be deprived and granting permanent legal custody to the child's maternal grandparents. Because we agree with Bowen that the juvenile court lacked clear and convincing evidence upon which to base a finding of deprivation, we reverse.[1]

Page 121

[330 Ga.App. 694] The record reflects that G. R. B. was born on December 8, 2012, to Bowen and the child's mother, who are not and never have been married to each other.[2] On June 27, 2013, Bowen filed a petition for legitimation and custody in the Superior Court of Murray County. And on July 31, 2013, G. R. B.'s maternal grandparents, Greg and Ashley Welch (" the Welches" ), filed a motion to intervene and a complaint for grandparent custody and visitation in that same court. Simultaneously, the Welches also filed an emergency private petition alleging deprivation in the Juvenile Court of Whitfield County, which resulted in an immediate grant of temporary custody to them by the juvenile court. Then, on August 8, 2013, the Welches filed a subsequent verified private petition to determine deprivation and an award of custody in the Juvenile Court of Whitfield County, and a guardian ad litem was appointed for the child.

On August 19, 2013, the Superior Court of Murray County issued an order consolidating all pending actions and transferring the matters to the Juvenile Court of Whitfield County. Thereafter, on August 29, 2013, the juvenile court declared Bowen to be G. R. B.'s legitimate father. In this same order, as to the Welches' petition alleging deprivation, custody, and visitation, the court found that (1) there was " a significant history of mental health problems" on the part of the mother; (2) the mother and the father had separated and reconciled many times; (3) the mother and the father had engaged in acts of domestic violence in G. R. B.'s presence with the mother pushing the child into his crib during a June 2013 incident; (4) the Welches and the maternal great-grandparents had both provided day-to-day care for G. R. B. for " a significant amount of the time" and had formed [330 Ga.App. 695] a " significant bond and relationship" with G. R. B.; and (5) both parents were gainfully employed and could provide " adequate housing and income for the child." [3] Nevertheless, the juvenile court was concerned with " the domestic violence, and the mother's maintaining her medication regime." As such, the court continued the case for a three-month period, returned G. R. B. to the parents' custody, and directed that DFCS should open a family preservation case to ensure that the parents complied with orders to complete a parenting class, enroll in a marriage/relationship class, and complete anger-management courses.

On January 2, 2014, following a December 9, 2013 hearing,[4] the juvenile court issued an order nunc pro tunc, making the following findings of fact: (1) an additional act of domestic violence had occurred on October 26, 2013, resulting in the mother's arrest; (2) the mother's initial bond conditions required that she have no contact with Bowen; and (3) the mother's bond conditions were modified in December 2013 with Bowen's consent to allow contact so long as the mother complied with certain requirements. Accordingly, the juvenile court again continued the matter for another three-month period, ordered DFCS to maintain the family preservation case to ensure the parents' compliance with the requirements of the August 29, 2013 order, and ordered the mother to immediately enroll in and complete anger-management courses. Nevertheless, the court allowed G. R. B. to remain in the parents' custody.

Then, on March 6, 2014, nunc pro tunc to February 24, 2014, the juvenile court entered an emergency order following an emergency hearing conducted on February 24, ...


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