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A trial court may terminate parental rights in lieu of placement with relatives.

On appeal, respondent asserts that the trial court erred when it found that termination of her parental rights was in the children’s best interests.

A court may consider several factors including the child’s bond to the parent, the parent’s parenting ability, the child’s need for permanency, stability and finality, and the advantages of a foster home over the parent’s home.  The court may also consider psychological evaluations, the child’s age, any continued involvement in domestic violence, and the parent’s history.  When a child is in relative placement, a trial court must explicitly address whether termination is appropriate in light of the children’s placement with relatives.

In this case, the psychologist who examined respondent concluded that she exhibited symptoms consistent with psychosis.  During the nearly three years that the children were in care, respondent failed to consistently attend her therapy, and there was evidence that she was not taking prescribed medication.  At the end of nearly three years, respondent still had not demonstrated that she could spend unsupervised time with her children, let alone that she could adequately care for them if returned to her custody.

A court may also consider the advantages of a foster home and the possibility of adoption over the parent’s home. A court appointed special advocate testified that at the time the children came into care, they fought a lot with each other, did not know how to use a fork and knife, were unfamiliar with basic hygiene, and were not affectionate. After being placed in their respective foster homes, their behaviors improved.  Moreover, there was testimony from foster care workers and a psychologist that the children liked their placements and expressed an interest in remaining in these homes. The foster parents had all indicated a desire to adopt the children in their care.

Respondent asserts that when determining the best interests of the children, the trial court failed to consider that two of the children were placed with relatives. Although placement with a relative weighs against termination, and the fact that a child is living with relatives must be considered, placement with relatives is not dispositive, and a trial court may terminate parental rights in lieu of placement with relatives if it finds that termination is in the child’s best interests.

The trial court found that the relationship between respondent and the relative caregivers had deteriorated to the point that the individuals could no longer cooperate in a meaningful way. Implementing a guardianship with the relative caregivers in lieu of terminating respondent’s rights was simply not a viable option in light of her hostility toward the caregivers.

This court found that the trial court did not clearly err when it held that termination of respondent’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests.

The relationship with your children is important, which is why you need to find an experienced family law attorney who will work hard to protect your rights and help you achieve a positive outcome. It is important to remember that decrees regarding child support, child custody, visitation and spousal support (alimony) are not always final.

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