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Arkansas Prisoner’s Parental Rights Terminated

The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the termination of a prisoner’s parental rights.

George Blumley was in prison on October 7, 2012, when the biological mother of his nine year old son, G.B., was arrested on several charges relative to a domestic violence incident.  The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) obtained temporary custody of G.B. and a half-sister.

The circuit court then gave temporary custody to the children’s aunt, who also subsequently desired to adopt G.B.  Blumley was ordered by The Court to participate in counseling, refrain from drugs, take drug screenings, maintain stable housing and employment, maintain housing for himself and the children, and follow the court’s case plan and orders.

At two subsequent hearings, the court found Blumley had not complied with the case plan because he was still incarcerated, but it noted he had participated in parenting classes, life skills classes, and sobriety classes in prison.  Nonetheless, he could not care for the child.

DHS moved to terminate Blumley’s parental rights on October 18, 2013, which the circuit court granted after a hearing in a December 20, 2013 order.  The Appellate Court affirmed, and The Arkansas Supreme Court conducted a de novo review.

The Court cited Ark. Code Am.§9-27-341 (b) (3) which states parental rights may be terminated when “[t]he parent is sentenced in a criminal proceeding for a period of time that would constitute a substantial period of the juvenile’s life.”  The court wrote, “we note that the prison sentence, not the potential release date, determines whether this statutory ground is satisfied.”

The circuit court’s order found, “George Blumley has remained incarcerated throughout the case.  He has not see[n] [his] since 2007, when he went to prison.”  Additionally, he “has only resided with his son [six] months back in 2006.  [The child] does not have a relationship with his father.”

The Arkansas Supreme Court held that “Blumley’s seven years of incarceration during the life of his nine year old son constitutes a substantial period of the child’s life and that sufficient evidence supports this ground for termination.”

In rejecting Blumley’s challenge to the circuit court’s best interest analysis, the high court noted Blumley “expected to be released six months after the termination hearing; however, he did not ask for custody of his son at the hearing, but only a chance to ‘work with the custodian’ to get to know his son.”

Combing the potential harm and the child’s adoptability led the court to affirm the order below.  See: Blumley v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Services, 2015 Ark 356 (Ark. 2015).

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Related legal case

Blumley v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Services