Jackson will issue ruling on motion to transfer custody of Sonya to Nebraska by 4 pm Friday

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Sonya McCaul (from Facebook)

Sonya McCaul (from Facebook)

Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge Andy Jackson said he will issue a ruling on whether to transfer custody of 10-year-old Sonya McCaul from Tennessee to Nebraska by 4 pm Friday, likely meaning it will be his last act as judge. Following a hearing in Charlotte Thursday, Jackson took under advisement a motion from John McCaul’s attorney asking that decisions about Sonya’s future be placed with the Nebraska Children’s Commission instead of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Attorney Lynn Coffinberry said that a recently obtained court document from Nebraska means the last eight years of Sonya living in Dickson County and being adopted by foster parents Kim and David Hodgin should never have happened. Coffinberry told Jackson that a court order granting custody of infant Sonya to John McCaul with visitation rights for her biological mother was in place before the child’s baby-sitter ever brought her to Tennessee. “This child should have been transferred to the state of Nebraska initially,” Coffinberry argued. She said it appears that nobody affiliated with the case when it first entered the Dickson County courts in 2006 was aware of the existing court order. She said that the prior order means Tennessee never had jurisdiction to make any custody ruling and “it doesn’t make sense to leave this child in the custody of the state of Tennessee.” But an attorney for the Hodgins continued to argue for a best-interest hearing, saying the court’s emergency custody rulings from 2006 were justified by the fact that the child had no parent in Tennessee when the court determined she was neglected and abandoned. He also argued that John McCaul or any other family member did not appeal the original court rulings and that currently pending matters in Dickson County Chancery and Circuit courts should be resolved before any decision regarding custody is made. At the conclusion of the 45-minute hearing, Jackson said he is inclined to grant the motion to transfer custody to the state of Nebraska but wants to do some more research on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Jackson said he would issue a written ruling by 4 pm Friday, which marks the end of his 33-year tenure as Dickson County Juvenile and Probate Court judge. The opinion will not be issued in open court but will be faxed to the attorneys for all the involved parties.

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