MILLER, P. J., BROWN and GOSS, JJ.
MILLER, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Price appeals from the trial court's denial of her
petition to adopt her stepdaughter, C. N. P., and to
terminate the parental rights of the child's biological
mother, Tamara Grehofsky. On appeal, Lauren argues that (1)
the trial court erred in its application of the statute
applicable to stepparent adoptions, OCGA § 19-8-10 (b);
(2) the court's denial of her adoption petition violated
equal protection under the federal and state constitutions;
and (3) the court was overly deferential to Grehofsky's
liberty interest in her child, despite the fact that the
child's best interests are of equal constitutional
weight. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude
that there is a lack of clear and convincing evidence that
would justify the termination of Grehofsky's parental
rights. Accordingly, the trial court properly denied
Lauren's petition, and we affirm the trial court's
In matters of adoption the [trial] court has a very broad
discretion which will not be controlled by the appellate
courts except in cases of plain abuse. Thus, if there is any
evidence to support the judgment entered in an adoption
proceeding, it must be affirmed by this [C]ourt. Furthermore,
in cases concerning termination of parental rights, we review
the evidence in the light most favorable to the appellee . .
. and defer to the trial court in the area of factfinding.
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Thaggard v.
Willard, 285 Ga.App. 384, 385 (646 S.E.2d 479) (2007).
viewed, the record shows that Grehofsky gave birth to C. N.
P. in January 2007. When the child was born, Grehofsky was a
drug addict, and the child was immediately removed from her
care along with Grehofsky's two older
children. Six months later, C. N. P.'s
biological father, Chris Price, legitimized the child and was
awarded custody of her.
2008, Grehofsky was arrested on drug charges and entered drug
court, where she met Lauren, who was also enrolled in the
program. Lauren and Chris met in 2008 as well. From 2009 to
the time of the filing of the adoption petition in 2016,
Grehofsky attempted to contact Chris through calls and
Facebook messages to discuss C. N. P. Except for one message
in 2012 in which Chris told Grehofsky to stop contacting him
and Lauren and told Grehofsky she would be hearing from his
lawyer, Chris did not respond. Grehofsky also sent gifts and
cards to C. N. P. from October 2008 until sometime in 2010.
The letters were returned to Grehofsky, but the gifts were
her friendship with Lauren, Grehofsky would sometimes ask
Lauren about C. N. P. and would seek her help communicating
with Chris about the child. The two women also communicated
through Facebook messaging, and in one message in 2010,
Lauren stated that she wanted Grehofsky to be involved in C.
N. P.'s life and had spoken to Chris about it. Grehofsky
sent Facebook messages to Lauren about the child until 2012.
and Chris had a child and married in 2011. In 2012, Lauren
filed for divorce, but she withdrew the petition. Lauren and
Chris moved to Texas, where Lauren filed for divorce a second
time before withdrawing this petition as well.
February 2016, Lauren filed the original petition for
termination and adoption in Texas. Thereafter, Lauren and
Chris returned to Georgia and had the petition transferred to
Glynn County. Lauren then filed an amended petition,
attaching Chris's consent to the adoption.
hearing on the petition, Grehofsky testified that she tried
to get visitation in 2009, but after paying her attorney an
initial fee the attorney told her Chris could not be found
and there was no point in pursuing the matter. She stated
that she tried to get visitation in 2010 through Georgia
Legal Services, but they could not assist her and she could
not afford an attorney because she was a stay-at-home parent.
She explained that from 2011 until Lauren filed the petition
for adoption, she did not know where Chris and C. N. P. were
living. She stated that she did not have an address for them,
and her attempts to contact Chris through his family went
unanswered. She also stated that she did a Google search on
him but did not find an address. She repeatedly explained
that she called Chris and that he would not answer or return
her calls, and that she stopped sending cards to the address
she had because her cards were being returned to her.
Grehofsky's husband testified that he had seen her send
gifts and attempt to contact Chris, but the calls were
unsuccessful and her mail was returned.
asked what interaction she hoped to gain with C. N. P.,
Grehofsky stated that she was not trying to take the child
away from Lauren and Chris, but that she simply wanted to
"give her more love" and "add the love"
she and her family had for the child. Grehofsky stated that
she was willing to reunite with C. N. P. at the rate that was
safest for the child. She further stated that she had been
sober since June 2008, she had recently started working as a
pharmacy technician, and her two children in her care had
been doing well. Grehofsky's husband and one of
Grehofsky's friends testified that Grehofsky was a good
mother to the two children in her care. Lauren testified that
C. N. P. was doing well in school and had only recently been
told that Lauren was not her biological mother.
trial court denied the petition for adoption. First, the
trial court found that Lauren had not produced clear and
convincing evidence that Grehofsky lacked justifiable cause
for her failure to communicate with C. N. P., reasoning that
Chris had "consistently stonewalled"
Grehofsky's efforts to communicate up to and through the
filing of the petition. Second, the trial court found that
Lauren had not produced clear and convincing evidence that
Grehofsky lacked justifiable cause for her failure to provide
for C. N. P.'s care and support. The court reasoned that
Grehofsky had been a stay-at-home mother without an income,
and that even if she had income with which to support C. N.
P., she would not have known where to send it because she did
not know where Chris and C. N. P. lived. Finally, the trial
court found that it was not in C. N. P.'s best interests
to terminate Grehofsky's parental rights and allow Lauren
to adopt the child. The court reasoned that Grehofsky had
improved her life and was properly caring for the two
children in her care, and while C. N. P. was doing well and
feared being removed from her home with Lauren and Chris,
there was no indication Grehofsky sought to remove the child
from that home, and instead she wanted to reunite at the pace
that was best for the child and to add her family's love
and support to the child's life. This direct appeal
followed. See Sauls v. Atchison, 326 Ga.App. 301,
304 (1) (756 S.E.2d 577) (2014) (order granting stepparent
adoption and terminating biological parent's rights was
Lauren first argues that the trial court erred in its
application of the statute applicable to stepparent
adoptions, OCGA § 19-8-10 (b), in that there was no
justifiable cause for Grehofsky's failure to communicate
with and provide support for C. N. P., and adoption was in
the child's best ...