In Re Bentley D.

03/21/2018 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF TENNESSEE AT KNOXVILLE Assigned on Briefs February 2, 2018 IN RE BENTLEY D. Appeal from the Circuit Court for Washington County No. 34545 James E. Lauderback, Judge No. E2016-02299-COA-R3-PT Father appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights on the ground of wanton disregard for the child’s welfare prior to the father’s incarceration. We affirm. Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed ANDY D. BENNETT, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which J. STEVEN STAFFORD, P.J., W.S., and JOHN W. MCCLARTY, J., joined. Lawrence Scott Shults, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, David D. OPINION FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Melissa R. (“Mother”) and David D. (“Father”) are the biological parents of Bentley D., who was born in June 2012. Father was incarcerated with the Tennessee Department of Correction at the time of the child’s birth. Mother married Aurelio G. (“Stepfather”) in February 2014. On June 26, 2015, Mother and Stepfather filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights and to allow Stepfather to adopt Bentley. The petition alleged as grounds: [F]ather has never paid support for the child within the prior four months of this petition, nor has he ever paid any support although he has been incarcerated from the date of the child’s birth to the present time, and that respondent within the prior four months has not attempted to call petitioner mother to check as to the welfare of this child nor has he ever sent this child a letter or card for petitioner mother to read to the child since an October 2013 letter and a drawn picture for Bentley to color in June, 2013. Although respondent did ask about this child to petitioner Melissa [R.] on February 24, 2014, he stated on that date that he wished to surrender his parental rights to the child. Grounds exist for termination of the father’s parental rights on the basis of abandonment. Father filed an answer opposing the termination of his parental rights in which he alleged that Mother told him to stop writing and that he “made several attempts to check on my child” but the mail came back “return to sender” or he never received a response from Mother. Father further stated that Mother “moved four times in two years.” The trial court appointed a guardian ad litem for the child and an attorney for Father. In an amended answer filed on October 23, 2015, Father raised a number of defenses, including the defense that Mother’s petition failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Father filed a motion to dismiss on October 29, 2015, based upon Mother’s failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Mother filed a response in opposition to the motion to dismiss. The motion was heard on May 23, 2016. The trial court found that Mother’s petition did not comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(d)(3)(A)(i)1 or ...

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