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2004-UP-193 - SC Department of Social Services v. Ledford

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

South Carolina Department of Social Services,        Respondent,

v.

Leann Ledford, Willie Fortner, Darrick Cooper, Hillman Atkinson and John Doe,        Defendants,

and Miranda Fortner, DOB 4/26/92, Stephen Ledford, DOB 2/10/97, Bethany Atkinson, DOB  6/1/98, of whom Leann Ledford and Willie Fortner are        Appellants.


Appeal From Aiken County
Peter R. Nuessle, Family Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2004-UP-193
Submitted March 8, 2004- Filed March 22, 2004


AFFIRMED


J. Arthur Davison and Sonja R. Tate, both of Augusta; for Appellants.

Dennis M. Gmerek, of Aiken; for Respondent.

Kristina Michelle Anderson, of Aiken; for Guardian Ad Litem.

PER CURIAM:  Willie Fortner (Father) and Leann Ledford (Mother) are the parents of the minor child, Miranda.  Mother is also the mother of the minor children, Stephen and Bethany.  The South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) filed an action to terminate the parental rights of both Mother and Father to all three minor children.  The family court judge subsequently terminated the parental rights of both parties.  Mother and Father have each appealed this ruling. [1]

We affirm pursuant to Rule 220(b)(1), SCACR, and the following authorities:  S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1578 (Supp. 2003) (finding termination of parental rights statutes “must be liberally construed in order to ensure prompt judicial procedures for freeing minor children from the custody and control of their parents by terminating the parent-child relationship”); Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 769-70, 102 S. Ct. 1388, 1403, 71 L. Ed. 2d 599, 617 (1982) (holding the grounds for termination of parental rights must be proven by clear and convincing evidence); South Carolina Dep’t of Soc. Servs. v. Headden, 354 S.C. 602, 608-09, 582 S.E.2d 419, 423 (2003) (“Upon review, the appellate court may make its own finding from the record as to whether clear and convincing evidence supports the termination.”); Hooper v. Rockwell, 334 S.C. 281, 297, 513 S.E.2d 358, 367 (1999) (finding this court is not required “to ignore the fact that the family court, who saw and heard the witnesses, was in a better position to evaluate their credibility and assign comparative weight to their testimony”). 

Mother’s appeal:  S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1572(2) (Supp. 2003) (A court may terminate parental rights if a child “has been out of the home for a period of six months following the adoption of a placement plan . . . and the parent has not remedied the conditions which caused the removal.”); S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1572(4) (Supp. 2003) (A court can also terminate parental rights if a child “has lived outside the home of either parent for a period of six months, and during that time the parent has willfully failed to support the child” by failing to make a “material contribution” to the child’s care.); S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1572(8) (Supp. 2003) (Parental rights may be terminated if a child was in foster care “for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months.”); South Carolina Dep’t of Soc. Servs. v. Broome, 307 S.C. 48, 53, 413 S.E.2d 835, 838 (1992) (“Conduct of the parent which evinces a settled purpose to forego parental duties may fairly be characterized as ‘willful’ because it manifests a conscious indifference to the rights of the child to receive support and consortium from the parent.”); Doe v. Baby Boy Roe, 353 S.C. 576, 581, 578 S.E.2d 733, 736 (Ct. App. 2003) (“[O]nce a child has been in foster care for fifteen months, whether those months are consecutive or within the last twenty-two months, the parental rights of that child’s parents may be terminated upon a showing that termination is in the child’s best interests.”); Boyer v. Boyer, 291 S.C. 183, 186, 352 S.E.2d 514, 516 (Ct. App. 1987) (finding a request for support need not assume a particular form to satisfy the requirements of section 1572(4)). 

Father’s appeal:  S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1572(7) (Supp. 2003) (parental rights can be terminated if the family court finds the child has been abandoned); S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1572(8) (Supp. 2003) (parental rights may be terminated if a child was in foster care “for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months.”); S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-1578 (Supp. 2003) (“The interests of the child shall prevail if the child’s interest and the parental rights conflict.”); Hamby v. Hamby, 264 S.C. 614, 618, 216 S.E.2d 536, 538 (1975) (affirming a finding of abandonment where Father voluntarily pursued a course of lawlessness resulting in his imprisonment and inability to perform parental duties); Doe v. Baby Boy Roe, 353 S.C. 576, 581, 578 S.E.2d 733, 736 (Ct. App. 2003) (“[O]nce a child has been in foster care for fifteen months, whether those months are consecutive or within the last twenty-two months, the parental rights of that child’s parents may be terminated upon a showing that termination is in the child’s best interests.”). 

AFFIRMED.

HEARN, CJ., ANDERSON, and BEATTY, JJ., concur.


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.