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In re Kyeshon J.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

February 14, 2017

In re Kyeshon J. et al.

         Providence County Family Court (P13-1229-1), (P13-1229-2)

          Associate Justice Karen Lynch Bernard For Petitioners: David J. Strachman, Esq.

          For Respondent: Susan B. Iannitelli, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          William P. Robinson III Associate Justice

         The respondent father, Kai Jackson, appeals from a decree of the Family Court terminating his parental rights with respect to his two sons, Kyeshon J. and Jarell G. This case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument on September 29, 2016, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that this appeal may be decided at this time. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the decree of the Family Court.

         I Facts and Travel

         On November 19, 2013, Sandra Armand and Gorvey Armand (petitioners) filed two adoption petitions in Family Court so that Gorvey[1] might become the legal father of both Kyeshon (who was born on May 23, 1999) and Jarell (who was born on November 9, 2000). As the basis for their petitions, petitioners alleged that respondent had failed to provide for Kyeshon and Jarell pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 15-7-7(a). (Those petitions could be granted only if respondent consented to the adoptions-or, alternatively, if his parental rights as to the children were terminated.) The respondent, who was then incarcerated in Massachusetts, refused to consent to the adoptions. As a result, petitioners moved to terminate respondent's parental rights with respect to Kyeshon and Jarell. Thereafter, a trial was held before a Family Court justice on August 14, September 3, September 10, and December 15 of 2014. We summarize below the salient aspects of that trial.

         A The Testimony of Sandra

         Sandra Armand, the mother of Kyeshon and Jarell, testified that respondent had not visited the boys in over two years, the last occasion being when he "picked them up" on Jarell's eleventh birthday in November of 2011. She testified that respondent had not set up a visitation schedule as to when he would visit the boys; she stated that, instead, he would seek to visit them "out-of-the-blue." It was her testimony that respondent's last phone conversation with Kyeshon occurred about one year before trial. She further testified that she had not received child support payments for her sons from respondent in twelve years. She also stated that, although respondent had from time to time purchased sneakers for the boys in past years, he had stopped making such purchases before 2012.

         Sandra further testified that respondent had not been involved with the care of the children; she added that she and their stepfather (Gorvey) have provided for their daily needs over the years. She stated that, for at least six years, Gorvey has "effectively been [the boys'] father, " providing "stability" in the household by being "a constant father figure" who "[attends] their school meetings, helps with [their] homework, feeds them, [and] clothes them." Sandra testified that, in her judgment, it would be in the best interests of Kyeshon and Jarell to terminate respondent's parental rights.

         B The Testimony of Respondent

         The respondent testified at trial that he was then serving a two-year sentence in Massachusetts for simple assault.[2] He further testified that, from the end of 2011 until some point in 2012, he would visit Kyeshon and Jarell. He testified that he had given cell phones to Kyeshon and Jarell when they were six and seven years old, respectively. It was his testimony that he had purchased clothes, sneakers, and headphones for them, the last time being at some point in 2013-although he could not recall in which month of that year. The respondent testified that, in July of 2013, he saw and gave thirty dollars to Kyeshon at a family barbecue. He further testified that, as a result of his incarceration that began in August of 2013, he had since that time not seen Kyeshon or Jarell, nor had he supported them. However, respondent stated on cross-examination that he had visited both his sons whenever he was not incarcerated.

         C The ...


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