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In re Guardianship of Meldrum

Court of Appeals of Oklahoma, Division II

August 29, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF HAGEN TIMOTHY MELDRUM, A MINOR CHILD, AMANDA MELDRUM, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
VERONICA D. MELDRUM, Defendant/Appellee.

          Mandate Issued: 11/21/2017

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TULSA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA HONORABLE TERRY H. BITTING, TRIAL JUDGE AFFIRMED.

          Carl Funderburk, FUNDERBURK & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Plaintiff/Appellant

          Gilbert J. Pilkington, Jr., PILKINGTON LAW FIRM PLLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Defendant/Appellee

          Pegi A. Haddock, ASSISTANT TULSA COUNTY, PUBLIC DEFENDER, Children's Advocacy Division, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Minor Child

          JERRY L. GOODMAN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Amanda Meldrum (Grandmother) appeals a September 30, 2016, order which granted Veronica D. Meldrum's (Step-Mother) petition for guardianship and denied her cross-petition for guardianship. Based on our review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 The minor child, HTM, was born in 2006 to Ashley Jones and Joshua Meldrum (Father). Ashley Jones has not been a part of the minor child's life. Father subsequently married Step-Mother and two children were born of the marriage. Father, Step-Mother, HTM, and the two children lived together as a family until March of 2015, when Father and HTM left the home after a domestic violence incident between Father and Step-Mother.

         ¶3 Father and HTM moved in with Grandmother until July of 2015 when Father was arrested for the previous domestic violence by strangulation incident with Step-Mother. Father subsequently entered a guilty plea. In addition, Father and Step-Mother divorced and Step-Mother is the sole custodian of the parties' two biological children.

         ¶4 On August 3, 2015, Step-Mother filed an emergency petition for guardianship of HTM, who was still living with Grandmother. Grandmother filed a cross-petition for guardianship on August 18, 2015. After a hearing on the petitions on April 7, 2016, the trial court found the biological mother was unfit due to abandonment, that Father was unfit due to domestic violence, and that it was in the best interest of the minor child to grant Step-Mother's petition. An order was entered on September 30, 2016, memorializing the trial court's findings. Grandmother appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5 Issues of statutory construction are questions of law to be reviewed de novo, and appellate courts exercise plenary, independent, and non-deferential authority. Welch v. Crow, 2009 OK 20, ¶ 10, 206 P.3d 599, 603. In cases requiring statutory construction, the cardinal rule is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature. Id. The words of a statute will be given a plain and ordinary meaning, unless it is contrary to the purpose and intent of the statute considered as a whole. Naylor v. Petuskey, 1992 OK 88, ¶ 4, 834 P.2d 439, 440. Legislative purpose and intent may be ascertained from the language in the title to a legislative enactment. Id.

         ¶6 In appointing guardians, courts are vested with sound legal discretion and their judgments will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion. In the Matter of the Guardianship of J.J.H., 2007 OK CIV APP 75, ¶ 18, 168 P.3d 243, 247 (citing Brigman v. Cheney, 1910 OK 316, 112 P. 993, syl. 1). Abuse of discretion occurs "when a court bases its decision on an erroneous conclusion of law or where there is no rational basis in evidence for the ruling." In the Matter of the Guardianship of ...


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