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2011-UP-046 - Chappell F. v. John 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

Chappell F. and Huss F., Respondents,

v.

John B., Appellant.

In the interest of one minor child under the age of 18.


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


Unpublished Opinion No.   2011-UP-046
Submitted December 1, 2010 – Filed February 2, 2011


AFFIRMED


Naki Richardson-Bax, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Janet T. Butcher, of Camden, for Respondent.

Almand J. Baron, of Columbia, Guardian Ad Litem.

PER CURIAM:  John B. (Father) appeals the family court's final order terminating his parental rights to his minor child (Child).  Father contends the family court erred in finding (1) he failed to visit Child; (2) he failed to support Child; and (3) 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 the termination [of parental rights]."  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 findings that Father willfully failed to visit Child.[2]  See § 63-7-2570(3).  Here, Father visited Child on only two occasions after he moved out of state shortly after the divorce.  S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Broome, 307 S.C. 48, 53, 413 S.E.2d 835, 839 (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.").  Accordingly, the family court properly found sufficient statutory grounds to terminate Father's parental rights.       

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.  Although Father expressed good intentions during the TPR hearing, he has made little affirmative effort to support Child and only visited Child twice after moving out of state.  In contrast, Huss F. (Grandfather) is providing a stable and loving environment for Child, and the guardian ad litem stated Child was well-adjusted and bonded with Grandfather.  Additionally, Grandfather expressed a strong interest in adopting Child, and terminating Father's parental rights would allow the adoption process to proceed.  See Doe v. Roe, 386 S.C. 624, 634, 690 S.E.2d 573, 579 (2010) ("Overturning the family court's decision to terminate [parent'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 § 63-7-2510 (2010))).  Accordingly, the family court correctly determined TPR was in Child's best interests.       

AFFIRMED.

FEW, C.J., HUFF and LOCKEMY, JJ., concur.


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

[2]  Because we find Father willfully failed to visit Child, we need not address the remaining statutory ground for TPR.  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).