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2010-UP-269 - Adam C. v. Margaret B.

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

Adam C., Appellant,

   v.

Margaret B., Respondent.

In the interest of M.C., a minor child under the age of 18.


Appeal From Florence County
Angela R. Taylor, Family Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2010-UP-269
Submitted May 3, 2010 – Filed May 6, 2010


AFFIRMED


April S. Purvis, of Florence, for Appellant.

Marian D. Nettles, of Lake City, and Nicholas W. Lewis, of Florence, for Respondent.

Michele R. Krize, of Florence, Guardian Ad Litem.

PER CURIAM:  Adam C. (Father) appeals the family court's final order terminating his parental rights to his minor child (Child).  On appeal, Father contends the family court erred in finding (1) he willfully failed to support and visit Child and (2) termination of parental rights (TPR) was in Child's best interests.  We affirm.[1]

The grounds for TPR must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.  S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Parker, 336 S.C. 248, 254, 519 S.E.2d 351, 354 (Ct. App. 1999).  "Upon review, the appellate court may make its own finding from the record as to whether clear and convincing evidence supports [TPR]."  S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Headden, 354 S.C. 602, 609, 582 S.E.2d 419, 423 (2003).  However, despite our broad scope of review, we are not required to disregard the findings of "the family court, who saw and heard the witnesses, [and] was in a better position to evaluate their credibility and assign comparative weight to their testimony."  Id.  The family court may order TPR upon finding one or more of eleven statutory grounds is satisfied and also finding TPR is in the best interest of the child.  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570 (2010). 

We find clear and convincing evidence supports the family court's finding Father willfully failed to support Child.[2]   Father did not contribute any child support while imprisoned, nor did he contribute to Child's care despite having the ability to do so when he was not incarcerated.  Margaret B. (Mother) testified she did not receive any child support from Father.  Additionally, Father admitted he did not make any direct financial contributions for Child.  Furthermore, although Father attempted to establish his mother (Grandmother) was contributing for Child's care on his behalf, the family court's finding that Grandmother provided items to Child on her own behalf without Father's participation is supported by clear and convincing evidence.  Grandmother's testimony at the TPR hearing indicated she, not Father, provided items to Child on her own behalf.  Moreover, the guardian ad litem (GAL) stated Father's efforts towards Child were minimal and it appeared Grandmother was the "driving force" behind the relationship.  See S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2570(4) (2010) (stating one statutory ground for TPR is met when the child has lived outside of the home of either parent for a period of six months, and during that time the parent has willfully failed to support the child). 

In a TPR case, the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration.  S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Smith, 343 S.C. 129, 133, 538 S.E.2d 285, 287 (Ct. App. 2000).  "The interests of the child shall prevail if the child's interest and the parental rights conflict."  S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2620 (2010). 

We find clear and convincing evidence in the record supports the family court's finding that termination of Father's parental rights was in Child's best interests.  Father has a long history of abusing drugs and criminal behavior stemming from his drug addiction.  Additionally, Father admitted he suffers from bipolar depression and acted violently in the past because of his mental illness.  In contrast, Mother and her current boyfriend are providing a stable and loving environment for Child, and the GAL stated Child was well-adjusted in her current home and interacted well with both Mother and Mother's current boyfriend.  Additionally, Mother's boyfriend testified he wanted to adopt Child, and terminating Father's parental rights would allow the adoption process to proceed.[3]  Accordingly, the family court correctly determined TPR was in Child's best interests.       

AFFIRMED.

WILLIAMS, THOMAS, and KONDUROS, JJ., concur. 


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

[2] Because we find Father willfully failed to support Child, we need not address Father's failure to visit Child.  See Stinecipher v. Ballington, 366 S.C. 92, 100 n.6, 620 S.E.2d 93, 98 n.6 (Ct. App. 2005) (stating once one statutory ground is met, this court need not address whether any other ground for TPR has been proved). 

[3] See Doe v. Roe, 386 S.C. 624, ___, 690 S.E.2d 573, 579 (2010) ("Overturning the family court's decision to terminate Father's rights clearly conflicts with the TPR statute's purpose to make a child eligible for adoption by someone 'who will provide a suitable home environment and the love and care necessary for a happy, healthful, and productive life.'") (quoting S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-2510 (2010)).