DILLARD, C. J., DOYLE, P. J., and MERCIER, J.
Phillip Woodall ("the father") appeals an order
from the Superior Court of Henry County granting James W.
Johnson's ("the stepfather") stepparent
petition to adopt the father's son, B. M. W., and
terminating the father's parental rights to the child.
The father argues that: (1) the superior court abused its
discretion by denying his motion to supplement the record;
(2) the court erred by failing to set forth sufficient facts
to authorize termination of parental rights as required by
former OCGA §§ 19-8-19 and 19-8-18; (3) there was
insufficient evidence to support the termination of his
parental rights under former OCGA § 19-8-10; and (4) the
trial court erred by failing to properly apply the clear and
convincing evidence standard. For the reasons that follow, we
appeal from an order severing parental rights based on an
adoption petition, we view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the trial court's findings and determine
whether a rational trier of fact could have found by clear
and convincing evidence that the biological parent's
rights have been lost."
W. was born on September 29, 2010, as issue of the marriage
between the father and Lauren Alicia Johnson ("the
mother"). On January 7, 2013, the parents divorced, and
the superior court entered a final order requiring the father
to pay $400 per month in child support and incorporating a
parenting plan. On May 3, 2014, the mother and the stepfather
September 10, 2015, the superior court entered an order
finding the father in contempt and requiring him: to pay $7,
450 in back support and $562 for unpaid medical expenses; to
comply with a parenting schedule recommended by counselor Pam
McMichen; and to submit to a drug screen by July 24, 2015,
with the caveat that the father "shall have no
visitation with [B. M. W.] until he has provided a clean . .
. drug test to the [mother]." McMichen's parenting
plan set forth a detailed schedule, which included initial
supervised visitation gradually working up to unsupervised
overnight visits twice a month after over a year. As a
sub-set of the final part of the schedule providing for
overnight visits, the parenting plan provided, among other
things, that: "[s]hould problems arise," the mother
should notify her attorney or McMichen and that
"[s]hould problems occur during visits," the mother
could take B. M. W. for counseling at her discretion; the
father "shall participate in individual counseling
throughout the step down process; and "[t]he [father]
shall attend counseling at least once a week."
January 25, 2017, the stepfather filed a petition for
adoption, attaching thereto the mother's written consent
pursuant to former OCGA § 19-8-26 (1). The stepfather
alleged that the written voluntary surrender of the father
was not necessary because the father,
for a period of one year or longer immediately prior to the
filing of the petition for adoption, without justifiable
cause ha[d] failed to communicate or make a bona fide attempt
to communicate with that child in a meaningful, supportive
parental matter [sic] and ha[d] further failed to provide
care and support of the child as required by law or judicial
decree as contemplated in OCGA § 19-8-10.
father filed an objection to the adoption petition, alleging
that he had "purged all issues of contempt,"
including paying all past due child support and obtaining the
drug test required in the September 2015 order and that he
had "communicated or reasonably attempted to communicate
with the child within the past year."
August 2017 hearing, the mother testified that after the
contempt order was issued, the father regularly texted her to
schedule visitation, but she denied his requests because he
had not provided proof of a clean drug screen. On April 5,
2017, the father's attorney wrote to the mother's
attorney, providing proof of the father's September 20,
2016 clean drug screen and requesting that the father begin
the graduated visitation schedule. The mother, however,
continued to deny the father's repeated requests for
visitation because "the drug screen took way longer than
his allotted time[, ] and we still [had not] done the
counseling sessions." The mother testified that
"[they] haven't really spoken to [the father]
since" the adoption petition was filed, even though he
called "every day pretty much. . . ."
mother also testified that B. M. W. saw his paternal
grandparents and had a "good relationship with
them," and they passed along gifts to B. M. W. from the
father. According to the mother, the grandparents and the
father attended B. M. W.'s sporting events up until two
years before the hearing. After the adoption petition was
filed, the mother "rejected" the grandparents'
requests to attend B. M. W.'s sporting events because
"they were very upset and angry[, ] . . . and it's
not something I need to bring around [B. M. W.] or myself. I
was eight months pregnant at the time"; the mother told
the grandparents that she would take the child out of the
game if they or the father came to watch.
hearing, the father testified that after he and the mother
separated, he spent a lot of time with B. M. W. The father
concedes, however, that after the mother started prohibiting
his visitation, he wrongfully stopped paying child support.
After the contempt order, the paternal grandfather sold the
family's only vehicle so the father could pay the purge
amount and avoid jail, and the father worked a second job to
repay him. The father, who is legally blind, worked in
construction, making $10 per hour at the time of the contempt
order. According to the father, he was initially unable to
pay the $275 for the drug test the court required because he
was paying the arrearage and continuing child support
payments, and he had difficulty scheduling the test because
he frequently worked out of state. The father maintained that
he did not understand that his visitation with B. M. W. was
conditioned upon him attending counseling; he believed, until
the day of the final hearing, that he could begin visitation
as soon as he obtained a clean drug screen and that he would
undergo family and/or individual counseling when and if the
counselor required it. Nevertheless, he attempted to schedule
counseling but was only offered Wednesday appointments, which
he could not attend because of work. The father also
testified that he called the mother's phone regularly to
speak with B. M. W., but he was only able to speak with him
once or twice in the three years before the
hearing. The father denied ever telling B. M. W.
that the mother was preventing them from seeing each other.
paternal grandmother testified that she had visited with B.
M. W., who said that he loves the father, and she has passed
along gifts to him from the father. Both paternal
grandparents witnessed the father's repeated unsuccessful
attempts to speak with B. M. W. on the phone.
the attorneys had difficulty determining the precise amounts,
they agreed at the final hearing that the father had been
making regular monthly child support payments since the
petition was filed, but ...