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Appeals Court reverses ruling terminating parent's rights

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Court of Appeals reversed today a Washington County Circuit judge's decision to terminate the parental rights of a couple who divorced then moved out of state and remarried.

Justices said Judge Stacey Zimmerman erred in terminating the couple's parental rights because Department of Human Services case workers failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the reasons given in the Human Services petition to terminate existed.

The opinion noted a worker for the Division of Family Services testified during a hearing that everything she recorded about things the couple had not done "is not stuff I really know."

The petition claimed the couple had failed to remedy problems cited by the agency and "subsequent factors."

Zimmerman relied on the mother's "failure to protect" the children from the father, but under the termination of his parental rights, Human Services provided no evidence that he was doing anything the mother needed to protect the children from, according to the Appeals Court opinion.

Justices said it was clear the trial court concluded the mother's return to living with the father was the reason that placement of the children with her was contrary to their health, safety, or welfare and that the mother did not plan to leave the father.

It is impossible to see a basis for concluding that, in returning to the father, the mother was not making "proper, protective decisions as regards her children" when Human Services did not satisfy its burden of proving he was a threat to the children, according to the opinion. termination of (the mother's) parental rights must fail also."

NW News on 05/18/2017

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