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In re M. R.

Court of Appeals of Georgia

July 10, 2015

In the Interest of M. R., a child

Deprivation. DeKalb Juvenile Court. Before Judge Peagler.

Raymond F. Gordon, for appellant.

Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Shalen S. Nelson, Mark J. Cicero, Senior Assistant Attorneys General, Calandra A. Harps, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

MILLER, Judge. Branch, J., concurs. Andrews, P. J., concurs in judgment only.

OPINION

Miller, Judge.

The father of M. R. appeals from a juvenile court order finding the child to be deprived.[1]

Page 282

The father contends that the trial court erred in concluding that M. R. was a deprived child and that the father was the reason for that deprivation. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

In an appeal from a deprivation order, " we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the juvenile court's judgment to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found by clear and convincing evidence that the child was deprived." (Citation omitted.) In the Interest of D. Q., 307 Ga.App. 121 (704 S.E.2d 444) (2010).

So viewed, the evidence shows that the mother and father were married in October 2008, and M. R. was born in South Carolina in December 2011. The mother and father divorced in February 2013. [333 Ga.App. 31] The terms of the divorce decree provided that the mother and father shared joint legal custody, and the mother had primary physical custody of M. R.

Around the time of the divorce, the father stopped working full-time. The father was involved in an accident in May 2013, and has been unemployed since that time. The father applied for, but was denied, Social Security disability benefits. The father was appealing that decision, and testified that he was not actively seeking employment. The father confirmed that he had no income, received food stamps, and lived rent-free with his mother, who supported him financially.

In October 2013, the mother and her children moved to Georgia, while the father remained in South Carolina. The father testified that, in the eight months between his divorce and the time M. R. moved to Georgia, he had visited M. R. only three times. The father claimed that the mother had prevented him from visiting M. R. and he went to an attorney to enforce his visitation rights; however, he did not pursue the matter because of the injuries he sustained in the accident.

In early December 2013, the Department of Family and Children Services (" DFCS" ) filed deprivation complaints alleging that the mother was homeless, the appointed caregiver could no longer care for M. R. and her siblings, and the children lacked adequate supervision. Based on these complaints, the juvenile court entered an order placing M. R., then two years old, and her siblings into DFCS's care. Thereafter, on December 23, 2013, DFCS filed a deprivation petition against the mother, alleging that the mother had gotten into a physical altercation in front of the children, and that there was ongoing violence at home. DFCS also alleged that the mother had untreated mental health issues, she tested positive for marijuana, and she lacked stable housing and income. Following a hearing in January 2014, the trial court found M. R. deprived as to the mother.

On January 8, 2014, DFCS filed a deprivation petition against the father, alleging that the father had effectively abandoned M. R. At a February 2014 hearing, the DFCS caseworker assigned to the family testified that the father had failed to complete a drug screen that was required as part of the home evaluation necessary to determine whether his out-of-state residence was an appropriate placement for M. R. The father testified that he was aware that he needed to submit to drug screening before being approved for placement; however, he conceded that he had refused four separate court orders to submit to drug screening and ...


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