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Sonet v. Unknown Father

Court of Appeals of Tennessee
797 S.W.2d 1 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1990)


Joseph Hasty’s natural maternal grandfather worked for Mary Sonet (plaintiff). Joseph’s natural mother, an unmarried teenager, surrendered Joseph to Sonet, who filed a petition for adoption. Sonet was 65 years old when Joseph was born. Over the first two years of Joseph’s life with Sonet, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) received five neglect referrals regarding Joseph. The referrals indicated that Sonet was not properly caring for Joseph due to a lack of knowledge of how to care for an infant. At the adoption proceeding, a TDHS social counselor testified that none of the referrals warranted the removal of Joseph from Sonet. When Joseph was 16 months old, Sonet traveled to Florida for business and took Joseph with her. During their stay, the Florida Department of Health and Human Services (FHHS) was called, and FHHS removed Joseph from Sonet’s care. Joseph was returned to Sonet by court order approximately three months later. When Joseph was approximately 19 months old, TDHS had Joseph evaluated by doctors. The evaluation concluded that Joseph had been environmentally deprived and was developmentally delayed due to such deprivation. Sonet and TDHS also presented other conflicting recommendations from doctors and social workers regarding whether Sonet should continue to care for Joseph. Sonet testified that she loved Joseph and was bonded to him. The trial court dismissed Sonet’s adoption petition, finding that Sonet’s age and lack of parenting ability and Joseph’s failure to thrive indicated that Sonet’s adoption of Joseph was not in his best interest. The trial court awarded custody to TDHS. Sonet appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cantrell, J.)

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