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In re Child of Tanya C.

Supreme Court of Maine

November 20, 2018

IN RE CHILD OF TANYA C.

         Reporter of Decisions

          Submitted On Briefs: September 26, 2018.

          James S. Mundy, Esq., Whitney, Mundy & Mundy, South Berwick, for appellant mother

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Meghan Szylvian, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

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

          PER CURIAM

         [¶1] Tanya C. appeals from a judgment entered by the District Court (Springvale, Moskowitz, J.) terminating her parental rights to her youngest child[1] pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4O55(1)(A)(1)(a) and (1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv) (2017). The mother contends that she was denied due process when the court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the petition to terminate her parental rights in her absence, and that the court erred when it found her unfit and abused its discretion when it determined that terminating her parental rights is in the best interest of the child.[2] See id. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are supported by competent evidence drawn from the court's judgment and the procedural record. See In re Children of Nicole M., 2018 ME 75, ¶ 2, 187 A.3d 1.

         [¶3] The Department of Health and Human Services has been involved since the early days of the child's life. The mother has struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues, unsteady housing, and domestic violence. In June 2016, the court [Foster, J.) issued a jeopardy order as to her youngest child.

         [¶4] On October 7, 2016, the Department filed its first petition to terminate the mother's parental rights. On August 3, 2017, the court [Cantara, J.) denied the Department's petition, noting that the mother was "on the cusp of achieving all of the benchmarks of prolonged sobriety, stability, appropriate housing, employment and a sustained capacity to parent" her child.

         [¶5] On November 27, 2017, however, the Department filed a second petition for termination of parental rights, citing the mother's positive drug screen in September 2017, failure to engage in mental health counseling, and lack of stable housing. The Department served the mother with a copy of the petition, which included a notice that a hearing on the petition would be held on December 27, 2017, and that

[f]ailure to appear at [a] court hearing or court conferences regarding this matter may be determined to indicate an intent to abandon the child(ren) pursuant to 22 M.R.S.A. §4002(1-A). A finding of abandonment may be the basis for removal of a child from your custody and may ultimately lead to termination of your parental rights.

         On November 27, 2017, the court also sent a separate notice to the parties that a case management hearing ...


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