Submitted On Briefs: September 26, 2018
Christopher J. Whalley, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant father
Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant mother
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty.
Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee
Department of Health and Human Services
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and
The mother and father of the child appeal from a judgment of
the District Court (Ellsworth, Roberts, /.)
terminating their parental rights to their son pursuant to 22
M.R.S. § 4O55(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv)
(2017). The father contends that the court erred in its
parental unfitness finding and that he was denied due
process. The mother contends that the court erred in its
determination that termination of her parental rights is in
the best interest of the child. We affirm the judgment.
The following facts, which are supported by the evidence, are
drawn from the court's judgment and the procedural
record. See In re Dominyk T., 2017 ME 222, ¶ 5,
173 A.3d 1065.
The Department of Health and Human Services (the Department)
became involved with this family in February 2015 following
reports of domestic violence and substance abuse. On the
Department's petition, the court [Mallonee, J.)
issued a preliminary protection order on February 20, 2015.
After the opportunity for a summary preliminary hearing, the
court awarded the father custody of the child with several
conditions imposed, including that the father participate in
a substance abuse assessment and education program, and that
the father have no contact with the mother in the child's
The court returned the child to the Department's custody
in April 2015, following the Department's second request
for a preliminary protection order, in which the Department
alleged that the child was present in the father's home
when the mother assaulted the father.
The Department petitioned to terminate both parents'
parental rights on March 10, 2016. Following a hearing, the
court [Roberts, J.) denied the petition. In denying
the petition, the court found that the mother, who had been
unable to provide care of the child for nine months due to
substance abuse, met all four statutory definitions of
parental unfitness. See 22 M.R.S.
§4055(1)(B)(2)(b)(i)-(iv). Based on evidence that he had
not attended medical appointments and had missed several
scheduled visits with the child, the court found that the
father had not made a good faith effort to rehabilitate and
reunify with the child. See 22 M.R.S.
§4041(1-A)(B) (2017). Thecourtalso found that the father
did not understand the risk that the mother's substance
abuse posed to the child. Nevertheless, because the court
found that the Department had not given the father "a
clear indication of the steps he must take to rehabilitate
and reunify," the court did not find that the father was
unfit. The court denied the Department's petition with
respect to both parents, determining that it would not be in
the child's best interest to terminate the mother's
parental rights when reunification with the father remained a
The court, therefore, denied the petition for termination and
issued a judicial review order clearly setting out the
responsibilities of the father in the upcoming reunification
process. The court ordered that the father "shall
participate in random drug screening and abstain from use of
any non-prescribed mood altering substances; . . . [and]
shall participate in an updated substance abuse evaluation
and follow all recommendations." Following this order,
the Department sent several letters to the father expressing
concerns about positive results on drug tests.
On June 19, 2017, the Department filed a second petition for
termination of parental rights. Following a two-day hearing,
the court made the following findings of fact, all of which
are supported by competent evidence in the record:
[The mother's] relationship with [the father] was marred
by domestic violence to a degree which would jeopardize [the
child's] safety. [The mother] was unable to provide safe
care for [the child] for a period of 9 months preceding the
first Termination hearing due to substance abuse[The mother]
acknowledges that she is unable to ...