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In re M.C.

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

November 13, 2014

IN RE M.C

Submitted on Briefs October 27, 2014.

On the briefs:

Christopher W. Dilworth, Esq., Farmington, for appellant father.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not file a brief.

Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, SILVER, MEAD, and JABAR, JJ.

OPINION

ALEXANDER, J.

[¶1] The father of M.C. appeals from a judgment of the District Court (Rumford, Carlson, J.) terminating his parental rights pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2) (2013). After reviewing the evidence in this case, and the appropriate briefing process utilized by the father's counsel on appeal, we affirm.

I. CASE HISTORY

[¶2] The court held a termination of parental rights hearing on January 21, 2014, during which it heard testimony from the child's foster parents and a Department of Health and Human Services caseworker. At the termination hearing, the father was represented by counsel.

[¶3] The father received proper notice of the termination proceedings, but at the time of the termination hearing he was incarcerated in Massachusetts, pending trial on multiple felony charges. He had not been in contact with his attorney since August 2013. Despite multiple efforts to communicate with the father, including mailed communications to the facility where he was incarcerated, counsel had

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received no response from the father regarding the child protection proceedings. During this same time, however, the father had sent correspondence to the child's foster home. Accordingly, the court could have properly inferred that the father had received notice of the termination proceeding and of his opportunity to participate in the proceeding,[1] and had chosen to ignore the notices. See Graybar Elec. Co. v. Sawyer, 485 A.2d 1384, 1387 (Me. 1985) (stating that evidence that a letter or notice, properly addressed, was mailed supports a presumption that the letter or notice was received by the addressee).

[¶4] The evidence at the termination hearing demonstrated that, when he was not incarcerated, the father engaged in domestic violence and substance abuse in front of the child and had on occasion been intoxicated while caring for the child. Although he had significant substance abuse problems, the father refused to recognize his substance abuse as a concern or problem with his parenting. While he was not incarcerated, he had failed to participate in good faith in offered rehabilitation and reunification efforts by not attending certain family team meetings or engaging in treatment for substance abuse. In addition, his continued incarceration rendered him unable to meet the child's needs or to protect the child from jeopardy at the hands of his mother.

[¶5] The court entered its order terminating parental rights on February 7, 2014, on the grounds that the father was unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child in a time frame calculated to meet the child's needs and that termination of parental rights was in the best interest of the child. Pursuant to the termination order, the permanency plan for the child is adoption by his current foster parents. The ...


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