Yes, he did. From a moral standpoint, he abandoned her. But he also abandoned her from a legal standpoint. It looks as if, for some reason, the court erred severely.
In 2009 Appellate Court, the issue of abandonment was discussed. There are two important definitions of abandonment that could have applied. One applies if a parent or guardian is incarcerated at the time of the attempted termination of parental rights (TPR). In that case, the law directs us to look in the four months prior to incarceration. Did the parent visit or support the child during those four months?
Let’s see how this applies to McCaul. The petition to TPR was filed July 3, 2006. By that time, McCaul had been in prison three months. The 2009 appellate court document only lists his imprisonment date as April, 2006. To give him the benefit of the doubt, we’ll assume it was April 1, 2006. What was happening for the four months prior (December, 2005 – March 2006)? Was McCaul seeing Sonya or providing support? No, he wasn’t. And in April, 2006, he didn’t either. So whatever day in April he went to prison, he did not provide support or contact Sonya for the previous four months. There were two weeks during that period in which he was in jail (January, 2006) because he failed to appear in court. Even if we give him an EXTRA two weeks – the last two weeks of November, 2005, he did not provide support nor did he visit.
The Hodgins were caring for her while she was in DCS custody. Also during this period, the DSS hearing at which he could have simply showed up and claimed his child (or done so via attorney), in October, 2005, came and went without a word from McCaul.
It’s, thus, unclear to me why he did not meet that particular criteria for abandonment. In fact, he met BOTH criteria for abandonment.
Here are the two criteria for abandonment. The first is from the Tennessee Adoption Code (http://www.state.tn.us/tccy/tnchild/36/36-1-102.htm)
Here’s part (i), referred to above:
(i) For a period of four (4) consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of a proceeding or pleading to terminate the parental rights of the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child who is the subject of the petition for termination of parental rights or adoption, that the parent(s) or guardian(s) either have willfully failed to visit or have willfully failed to support or have willfully failed to make reasonable payments toward the support of the child;
Correction: The previous version of this entry stated: “He was out on bond for a firearm charge during this period – facing many years in prison. If I were facing years in prison, and I cared AT ALL about my child, I would certainly be contacting her and supporting her.” However, the 2009 appellate decision that says he was arrested in 10/2005 and out on bond was incorrect. He was not arrested until 2006 on the federal charges.