In the Matterof the Adoption of Minor Child, Manuel Cruz Cervantez v. Carla Irene Trejo Segovia & Edgar Ulises Ruiz Pacheco

Cite as 2022 Ark. App. 408 ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS DIVISION III No. CV-21-571 IN THE MATTEROF THE ADOPTION Opinion Delivered October 19, 2022 OF MINOR CHILD APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72PR-20-996] MANUEL CRUZ CERVANTEZ APPELLANT HONORABLE JOHN C. THREET, JUDGE V. CARLA IRENE TREJO SEGOVIA AND EDGAR ULISES RUIZ PACHECO APPELLEES REVERSED AND DISMISSED STEPHANIE POTTER BARRETT, Judge Manuel Cervantez appeals the order of the Washington County Circuit Court, finding his consent to the adoption of his minor child (hereinafter, “Minor Child”) was not required. Specifically, Manuel argues the circuit court’s decision was clearly erroneous because he did not voluntarily, willfully, arbitrarily, and without adequate excuse fail to maintain communication with his child. We reverse and dismiss. The parties in this case, Manuel Cervantez (“Manuel”) and Carla Segovia (“Carla”), began dating in high school and were eventually married. In February 2016, Carla and Manuel separated while Carla was eight months pregnant. On April 30, 2016, Carla gave birth to their son. Manuel and Carla divorced on May 16, 2018. Following the divorce, Manuel and Carla continued a sexual relationship and agreed to a transitional visitation schedule. The transitional visitation schedule implemented four phases: (1) during the first two weeks there would be two two-hour supervised visits; (2) during weeks three to six, there would be four four-hour unsupervised visits; (3) during weeks seven to ten, there would be unsupervised visitation each Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.; and (4) thereafter, Manuel would receive standard visitation. Only the first phase of the transitional visitation schedule was completed between Manuel and Minor Child, although Manuel continued to pay child support. In July 2018, Manuel broke off the sexual relationship with Carla, and it was at that time, according to Manuel, that Carla stopped allowing him to see Minor Child and, visitation stopped. Carla began dating Edgar Ruiz (“Edgar”) around that time and married Edgar on February 8, 2020. In August 2020, Carla received a letter from Manuel’s attorney requesting that visitation be allowed, or legal action would follow. The letter requested visitation begin anew according to phase one of the transitional schedule as provided in the divorce decree, provided Manuel’s contact information, and named a time and place for the visitation. Carla did not show up for the requested visitation. On December 9, 2020, Carla and Edgar filed a petition for adoption and alleged Manuel’s consent to the adoption was not required because (1) Manuel had abandoned the child in that he failed to provide reasonable support and maintain regular contact; and (2) Manuel failed to provide reasonable support or maintain regular contact with Minor Child without just cause for a period of one year. 2 In April 2021, Manuel filed a motion for contempt in his divorce case, and a hearing was held on July 28, 2021. At the contempt hearing, the circuit court held Carla in contempt for not keeping Manuel updated on Minor Child’s health and welfare and for failing to provide her …

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