Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Children of Melissa F.

Supreme Court of Maine

August 2, 2018

IN RE CHILDREN OF MELISSA F.

          Submitted On Briefs: July 24, 2018

          Pamela S. Holmes, Esq., and Brittany Sawyer, Esq., Holmes Legal Group, LLC, Wells, for appellant mother

          Rubin Guedalie Segal, Esq., Portland, for appellant father

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Hunter C. Umphrey, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Health and Human Services

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

          PER CURIAM.

         [¶1] Melissa F. and Taurus W. Sr. appeal from a judgment of the District Court (Portland, Powers, /.) terminating their parental rights to the children pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv) (2017). The mother and father challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's findings that they are parentally unfit and that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the children. The mother further contends that the court (1) was barred by res judicata from taking evidence at the second termination hearing on issues litigated at the first termination hearing; (2) abused its discretion by denying her motion to proceed without counsel; and (3) demonstrated bias against her and did not render a fair judgment. We conclude that there is competent evidence in the record supporting the court's findings regarding the bases for the parents' unfitness and its discretionary determination that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the children. The mother's other contentions are unpersuasive. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Following a four-day termination hearing that concluded on December 14, 2017, the court issued a judgment dated January 10, 2018, in which it found by clear and convincing evidence that the parents are unable or unwilling to protect the children from jeopardy or take responsibility for them in a reasonable time, they have failed to make a good faith effort at rehabilitating themselves and reunifying with the children, and that the termination of parental rights is in the children's best interests. See 22 M.R.S. § 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv). The court took judicial notice of its prior orders, evidence presented in hearings that occurred between July and December of 2017, and the reports of the guardian ad litem (GAL). See In re Caleb M., 2017 ME 66, ¶ 23, 159 A.3d 345. The court made the following findings:

[The parents] have clearly not tried to reunify in good faith. [The father] has sporadically visited his children. He has rarely attended any family team meetings and court conferences/hearings. [The father] has largely deferred to [the mother] to deal with this case. [The mother] has long made personal, cruel, and unhelpful comments to [a] caseworker . . ., which harmed their relationship, has refused to divulge the family's whereabouts for several months in late 2017, has failed to attend the properly noticed September 11, 2017 team meeting, and then attended the November 30, 2017 meeting only if the GAL left. She has also lied to DHHS about rental payments made, and the children's whereabouts for hours during the August 28, 2017 park visit, which led to suspended visits. She failed to attend numerous court-ordered drug testing sessions, and she did not attend mental health counseling until October 11, 2017, going only three times. [The mother] has done well with supervised visits themselves in large part. Neither parent has signed the three reunification plans and neither has met the goals or remedied jeopardy. [The mother] has chosen to impede proper reunification efforts due to her distrust of DHHS and the GAL. The parents have largely failed to comply with the court's orders of July 19, 2017 and October 12, 2017.
[The parents] have likewise been unable for about 32 months to take responsibility for the children's needs in any reasonable time that meets their needs and have not been able to protect their children from jeopardy in a reasonable time which meets their needs. There is no likelihood that this situation will change in the near future as demonstrated by their performance over the last 32 months. Deprivation of proper shelter for children aged 7 to 6th grade is included in the definition of jeopardy in 22 M.R.S. §[]4002(6).
Despite having the ability to work and earn income, the parents have regularly amassed significant rental arrearages and have been evicted three times. They have claimed twice to be obtaining new housing in Casco, and twice since the summer of 2017 have failed to do so. They have a history of two failed trial placements and unsuitable living situations that include several motels and recently a friend's home in Westbrook. Chaos at home has been prevalent and progress has not. There is no current prospect for another home placement with visits still supervised and housing uncertain. Providing suitable and stable housing is a primary parental function necessary to allow children to grow and flourish. [The mother], and [the father] by deference to her, have chosen to blame others and failed to recognize and resolve their parenting deficits since the court's July 2017 order on the first termination petition. That order gave them more time to reunify, which has not happened for good reasons outlined above. These parents could have focused their energies on solving housing instability and other parenting deficits, which they have not done.
BEST INTEREST
As to the second issue of "best interest[s]" of the children, the court also finds DHHS has proven by clear and convincing evidence that termination of both parents' rights to the three children is in their best interest[s]. The facts found [above] also support this conclusion, including the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.