Termination of Parental Rights

Issues: Termination under §§ 19b(3)(g) & (j); In re HRC; In re VanDalen; Right to a fair trial; Combined evidentiary hearing (on the admissibility of a child's statements under MCR 3.972(C)(2)(a)) and trial; "Plain error" review; In re Utrera; Rivette v. Rose-Molina; Whether the trial court's factual findings were "ambiguous"; Ruling that the child's statements about the source of her injuries were inadmissible; In re Archer; Children's best interests; In re Olive/Metts Minors; In re CR; Consideration of the fact the children were placed with relatives; Whether the trial court had to decide the best interests of each child individually; In re White

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: In re Arce/Logan

e-Journal Number: 57440

Judge(s): Per Curiam - Cavanagh, Owens, and Stephens

 

While the trial court plainly erred in failing to rule on the admissibility of the statements of one of the children (KA) before trial, the court held that the respondent-mother was not entitled to relief because she failed to show that her substantial rights were affected. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the statements, and did not clearly err in finding that § 19b(3)(g) was established by clear and convincing evidence. It also correctly ruled that termination was in the children's best interests. Thus, the court affirmed its order terminating respondent's parental rights. The court found that the record did not support respondent's claim that she relied on KA's statements to mount a defense at the trial. Rather, respondent testified at the trial that she was not sure if KA's injuries were caused by abuse and that she did not believe that the other child's (AL) father was responsible for the injuries. She denied that she knew the source of the injuries and surmised that someone else who was present in her home that evening could have harmed KA. While respondent had the opportunity to present additional evidence at the dispositional hearing, which was held a month after the trial court rendered its oral ruling that KA's statements were inadmissible, she only offered her own testimony at the hearing, reiterating that "she did not know how KA was injured and that she did not believe that AL's father was responsible." Viewing the totality of the circumstances, the court also concluded that "the trial court properly determined that KA's statements about the source of her injuries did not have sufficient indicia of trustworthiness," and it "did not abuse its discretion by declining to admit the statements into evidence pursuant to MCR 3.972(C)(2)." As to a statutory ground for termination, the court held that the record supported "that respondent continued to have contact with AL's father during the proceeding; this led to her violating her probation, being sentenced to jail, and losing her Holmes Youth Trainee Act status." It also clearly supported that she "either caused KA's injuries or failed to prevent them from occurring." Thus, "the trial court properly determined that respondent was unable to provide proper care and custody to the children at the time of termination." Further, the record clearly established that there was "no reasonable expectation that the parent [would] be able to provide proper care and custody within a reasonable time considering" the ages of the children.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Termination under §§ 19b(3)(a)(ii), (c)(i), (g), (i), (j), & (l); In re HRC; Motion for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel; In re CR; Matters of trial strategy; People v. Trakhtenberg; Credibility assessments; People v. Dendel; Constitutional right to procedural due process; Bonner v. City of Brighton; In re Utrera; Failure to refer the respondent-mother to court-authorized inpatient drug treatment services; Conditions placed on visitation with the child; In re Laster; "Plain error" review; In re VanDalen; Child's best interests; In re Moss; Whether the respondent-father was provided with reasonable services; Parent's responsibility to benefit from the services offered; In re Gazella

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: In re CLD

e-Journal Number: 57434

Judge(s): Per Curiam - O'Connell, Fitzgerald, and Markey

 

Holding that the respondent-mother failed to show that her counsel was ineffective, the court affirmed the trial court's order denying her motion for a new trial. It also held that the respondents could not show "basic violations of procedural due process with regard to the hearings." Further, nearly all of the relevant factors indicated that termination was in the child's best interests, and termination of the respondent-father's parental rights was warranted under § 19b(3)(a)(ii). Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's orders terminating both respondents' parental rights. It first concluded that the mother did not establish "that her trial counsel was ineffective with regard to the advice not to testify." At the hearing on remand, counsel testified that she advised the mother not to testify as a matter of trial strategy. The court "will not second-guess matters of trial strategy." The mother also did not show "any reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceeding would have been different if she had testified. The trial court, having heard the testimony from the termination proceedings and mother's testimony at the remand hearing, found that opposing counsel would have discredited" her proffered testimony. This finding indicated that the trial court found her proffered testimony "lacking both in credibility and in substance." The court "will not disrupt the trial court's credibility assessment." Further, the record supported its conclusion that the substance of her testimony "would not have altered the outcome of the proceeding." As to respondents' due process claims, the record showed that they both had "ample notice of the requirements of the case service plans" and several opportunities to either object or to request the available services. "More significantly, neither respondent can demonstrate that the alleged errors affected the outcome of the proceedings." The record confirmed that regardless of whether the mother had obtained inpatient substance abuse treatment, her parental rights were subject to termination under § 19b(3)(l) because of the termination of her rights to her older child. While the father appeared to argue that the court-ordered restriction on his parenting time was a due process violation, "a trial court has discretion to place conditions on parenting time" between the adjudication and the filing of a termination petition.

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Termination under §§ 19b(3)(b)(i), (b)(ii), (g), & (j); In re Powers Minors; In re Ellis; Reunification services; "Aggravated circumstances" where reasonable reunification efforts are not required; MCL 712A.19a(2)(a); MCL 722.638(1)(a)(i)-(vi); In re Mason; In re LE; In re Moss; A "judicial determination" of the existence of MCL 722.638(1)(a)(iii); Children's best interests; In re Jones; Inapplicability of the "best interest" factors set forth in MCL 722.23 in termination proceedings; In re JS & SM

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: In re Mullreed

e-Journal Number: 57488

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Borrello, Servitto, and Beckering

 

The court held that the trial court did not clearly err in finding that MCL 722.638(1)(a)(iii) was established and thus, reasonable reunification efforts were not required in this case. It also did not clearly err in determining that §§ 19b(3)(b)(i), (b)(ii), (g), and (j) were established by clear and convincing evidence, or in concluding that terminating the respondents-parents' parental rights was in the child's (JL) best interests. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's order terminating their rights. Medical experts testified that JL "suffered multiple instances of intentional abuse." JL's injuries included 19 rib fractures, 2 skull fractures, limb fractures, and a subdural hemorrhage. "Even respondents' expert testified that, given the nature of the injuries, JL had been subjected to 'chronic' trauma. The evidence supported the trial court's finding that JL's injuries constituted battering or severe physical abuse." The trial court also found that "respondents' alternate theories of how JL came to be injured unreasonable, and that no other person or relative could have caused all of JL's injuries." Given the record evidence, the court concluded that this determination was not clearly erroneous. In light of the various ages of JL's injuries, in order for respondents' claims that they were caused by others to be true, "JL would have to have been seriously harmed at least three separate times by different relatives. This is highly implausible." Further, respondents, and in particular the respondent-mother, "initially provided untruthful testimony about her drug use and addiction," which called into question her credibility. "Even if respondents did not cause the injuries themselves, they can fairly be said to have not provided proper care and custody of JL because the child, under their responsibility and control, suffered repeated instances of physical abuse." As to JL's best interests, "both respondents admitted to regular drug use while the child was in their care and permitted their friends to use drugs at their home after the child went to sleep." Their expert opined that "respondent-father suffered from impulsivity and poor coping mechanisms," and that the mother "suffered from impulsivity and low self-esteem." Experts further testified that "respondents would need extensive services for a lengthy period of time before they could potentially provide proper care and custody. In contrast, testimony was also presented that JL was with a pre-adoptive family whose home was safe and stable, he had no new injuries, and he was thriving."

 

Full Text Opinion

Issues: Termination under §§ 19b(3)(b)(ii), (g), (j), & (k)(iii); In re JK; In re Mason; In re Frey; In re Powers Minors; Witness credibility; In re Miller; Reasonable reunification efforts; In re Fried; Whether the respondent-mother sufficiently benefited from services; In re Gazella; Claim that the injuries the children suffered "were not severe or serious enough" to warrant termination under § 19b(3)(b)(ii); Distinguishing In re Sours; Abandoning an issue by failing to cite any supporting legal authority; Prince v. MacDonald; Children's best interests; In re Trejo Minors

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: In re Webster

e-Journal Number: 57489

Judge(s): Per Curiam – O’Connell, Fitzgerald, and Markey

 

Holding that the trial court did not clearly err by finding at least one statutory ground for terminating the respondent-mother's parental rights was established by clear and convincing evidence, or in finding that doing so was in the children's best interests, the court affirmed the trial court's order terminating her rights. While her argument as to § 19b(3)(k)(iii) had merit because she did not cause the facial scar on which the trial court relied to find this ground, "only one statutory ground for termination need be proven by clear and convincing evidence." The court concluded that in light of the trial court's credibility determinations and the weight it assigned to the evidence, and "in particular, respondent's repeated failure to protect her children after being provided services," it did not clearly err by finding clear and convincing evidence to terminate her parental rights pursuant to §§ 19b(3)(b)(ii), (g), and (j). The court rejected as without merit her claim that the DHS failed to make reasonable reunification efforts, noting that the evidence was "undisputed that respondent was not only provided services but she completed services." The issue at trial was whether she had benefited from them so that she would protect her children if they were returned to her care. "The trial court determined that the child protective system had not failed to provide respondent services because respondent understood what she needed to do to protect the children but she simply was not willing to do it." This finding was supported by the testimony and report of a limited license psychologist and the children's current caseworkers. The court also concluded that because the DHS proved by clear and convincing evidence §§ 19b(3)(b)(ii) and (j), "which include a finding of a reasonable likelihood of harm to the children if they were returned to respondent, the trial court did not clearly err by finding termination of respondent's parental rights was in the children's best interests." Further, this determination was supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

 

Full Text Opinion
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