Father’s attorneys asking to move custody of Sonya from Tennessee to Nebraska in hearing today

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Sonya McCaul (from Facebook)

Sonya McCaul (from Facebook)

With his 33-year tenure on the bench coming to an end Friday, Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge Andy Jackson has scheduled one more hearing in the custody case that has dominated his last eight months in office. Jackson will conduct a hearing Thursday morning on a motion by John McCaul to move the custody battle over 10-year-old Sonya McCaul from Tennessee to Nebraska. McCaul’s attorney filed a motion Wednesday to begin the process of transferring custody of Sonya from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to the Nebraska Children’s Commission. Sonya has been living with her biological father in Nebraska since January and attorney Lynn Coffinberry and Sonya’s guardian and attorney ad litem have reported on several occasions that she is happy and doing well not only with her family, but also in school. But attorneys for Kim and David Hodgin, the child’s former foster parents in Dickson County, objected to the short notice for the motion filed Wednesday, so Jackson scheduled a hearing Thursday morning in Charlotte. The Hodgins’ attorneys also are expected to contend that Jackson cannot act on the motion because there are pending matters in Dickson County Circuit and Chancery courts that must be resolved first. The Hodgins filed a petition to terminate John McCaul’s parental rights based on the fact that he originally received a 15-year prison sentence on weapons charges. That sentence prompted a Dickson County court to terminate McCaul’s rights and the Hodgins were then able to adopt Sonya. But when McCaul’s sentence was reduced and he was released early, an appeals court overturned the adoption, which eventually led to Jackson’s order in January returning physical custody of Sonya to her biological father. The Hodgins’ attorneys contend the law does not require a parent to serve more than 10 years, but only be sentenced to more than 10 years to have his or her rights terminated. A motion by McCaul’s attorneys to dismiss the Hodgins’ petition is currently being considered by Judge Robert Burch, whose 34-year tenure on the bench also ends Friday. Based on the outcome of the petition to terminate, the Hodgins also have a petition to again adopt Sonya pending in chancery court. Jackson is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion to move Sonya’s case to Nebraska today in what is likely to be his last session as juvenile and probate court judge for Dickson County. The winner of this month’s election, Michael Meise was sworn in as the new juvenile court judge Tuesday and begins his term Monday.

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