This summary also appears under Termination of Parental Rights
Issues: Termination of the respondent-father's parental rights under § 39 of the Adoption Code (MCL 710.39); In re BKD; § 39(2); Review of an unpreserved error; "Plain error" review; Rivette v. Rose-Molina; Trial court's determination that § 39(2) was inapplicable; In re RFF; Ambs v. Kalamazoo Cnty. Rd. Comm'n; In re BZ; In re Dawson; In re Gaipa; In re HRC; Child's best interests; MCL 710.39(1); Best-interest factors; MCL 710.22(g)(i) - (xi)
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re LRH
e-Journal Number: 59491
Judge(s): Per Curiam - Markey, Murray, and Borrello
The court affirmed the trial court's order terminating the respondent-father's parental rights to the child pursuant to § 39. He first raised a claim of procedural error. The trial court "conducted the hearing over two days. At the end of the first day, it indicated that it would determine whether respondent came within the provisions of § 39(2), but it did not place a ruling on the record. At the end of the second day, the trial court took the matter under advisement, following which it determined and terminated respondent's parental rights." Respondent contended that the trial court erred in continuing the hearing without first determining whether § 39(2) applied. Because he did not request a ruling on his status or object to the trial court's failure to determine his status before proceeding with the second hearing, the issue was not preserved. The court held that "it is clear that the trial court must first determine the putative father's status and find that § 39(2) is inapplicable before it determines the child's best interests. But nothing in the Adoption Code requires the trial court to conduct a bifurcated hearing and make an express determination regarding the putative father's status before taking proofs regarding the child's best interests. Rather, the court is authorized to conduct 'a hearing' to determine or terminate the putative father's rights, ascertain whether the child was born out of wedlock, and to determine the identity of the child's father." Under the facts here, respondent did not show a plain error. Further, he did not show that his substantial rights were affected by any error because "the trial court did in fact address § 39(2) and found that it was not applicable before it addressed and decided the child's best interests." Thus, he was not entitled to relief on the basis of this unpreserved issue. He next challenged the trial court's determination that § 39(2) was inapplicable. The court found no merit to his contention that "his failure to establish a custodial or supportive relationship with the child should be excused because the birth mother concealed her pregnancy from him and would not cooperate with his efforts to obtain a DNA test after the child was born." The court rejected similar arguments in RFF. Respondent lastly took issue with the trial court's decision that it was not in the child's best interests to grant him custody. Finding that six of the seven relevant factors did not favor him, the court held the trial court did not err in finding that granting him custody was not in the child's best interests.
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