STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of BNS, Minor.
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES,
August 25, 2009
Eaton Circuit Court
LC No. 07-016380-NA
RACHEL ANN STEPP,
Before: Meter, P.J., and Murray and Beckering, JJ.
Respondent Rachel Ann Stepp appeals as of right from the trial court order terminating
her parental rights to the minor child pursuant to MCL 712A.19b(3)(c)(i), (g), and (j). We affirm.
Respondent first argues that the trial court erred when it terminated her parental rights
because the trial court lacked jurisdiction. Jurisdictional challenges are reviewed de novo.
Fisher v Belcher, 269 Mich App 247, 252-253; 713 NW2d 5 (2005). BNS was born March 20,
2001, to Rachel Stepp and Gerome Owens in Kentucky, and resided there until November 2006,
when respondent and BNS moved to Michigan. After a brief stay in Michigan, respondent and
BNS moved to Ohio, where they remained for approximately two months until they returned to
Michigan. Upon their return to Michigan in January 2007, respondent dropped BNS off with a
relative and returned to Kentucky to “take care of legal matters.” A petition for temporary
custody was entered January 31, 2007, approximately two weeks after respondent left and had
The trial court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the termination of parental rights proceeding
was proper under two statutory provisions. The first was MCL 712A.2(b)(1), which provides that
the family division of the circuit court has original jurisdiction over a child under the age of 18,
found within the county where:
[A] parent or other person legally responsible for the care and maintenance of the
juvenile, when able to do so, neglects or refuses to provide proper or necessary support,
education, medical, surgical, or other care necessary for his or her health or morals, who
is subject to a substantial risk of harm to his or her mental well-being, who is abandoned
by his or her parents, guardian or other custodian, or who is without proper custody or
BNS was left in Michigan with a relative who was not given “power of attorney” over her.
Although the trial court eventually concluded that Kentucky was the home state of BNS, original
jurisdiction over BNS was appropriate when she was left in Michigan with a relative for several
weeks without proper guardianship.
The second justification for the exercise of jurisdiction over BNS was the court’s exercise
of “temporary emergency jurisdiction” under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and
Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), MCL 722.1204(1):
A court of this state has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this
state and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the
child because the child, or a sibling of the child, is subjected to or threatened with
mistreatment or abuse.
“Abandoned” means left without provision for reasonable and necessary care or supervision.
MCL 722.1102(a). Here, respondent left BNS with her relatives for several weeks and did not
return within the expected time. Furthermore, BNS’s relatives believed there was evidence of
abuse and mistreatment, and respondent had a history of criminal convictions and other
allegations of abuse and neglect existed.
Respondent essentially concedes that the court properly exercised temporary emergency
jurisdiction over BNS, and instead argues that under MCL 722.1204(3) and (4) the court lacked
jurisdiction to continue the proceedings beyond any temporary time period. Respondent argues
that BNS was subject to ongoing child support proceeding in Kentucky, and the Kentucky court
was not immediately notified, a requirement of MCL 722.1204(3) and (4). However, child
support proceedings do not fall within the guidelines of MCL 722.1204, as that statute addresses
child custody proceedings. “Child Custody” proceedings are defined as, “a proceeding in which
legal custody, physical custody, or parenting time with respect to a child is an issue. Child
custody proceedings includes a proceeding for divorce, separate maintenance, separation,
neglect, abuse . . . .” MCL 722.1102(d). Thus, MCL 722.1204(3) and (4) are not applicable to
Because BNS was not party to child-custody proceedings, MCL 722.1204(2) governs this
action. MCL 722.1204(2) provides:
If there is no previous child-custody determination that is entitled to be enforced under
this act and if a child-custody proceeding has not been commenced in a court of a state
having jurisdiction under sections 201 to 203, a child-custody determination made under
this section remains in effect until an order is obtained from a court of a state having
jurisdiction under sections 201 to 203. If a child-custody proceeding has not been or is
not commenced in a court of a state having jurisdiction under sections 201 to 203, a
child-custody determination made under this section becomes a final child-custody
determination, if that is what the determination provides and this state becomes the home
state of the child.
Respondent argues the trial court erred when it commenced parental termination
proceedings prior to contacting the Kentucky court. Of course, respondent only raised her
jurisdictional objection, citing pending child support proceedings in Kentucky, after termination
proceedings commenced, respondent pleaded, and proceedings were almost concluded in
Michigan. Despite this timing issue, and even though no child custody proceeding was pending
in another state, upon learning of the potential UCCJEA conflict, the trial court contacted the
Kentucky court and a determination was made that Kentucky would relinquish any jurisdiction it
had over the child to the Michigan court. As expressed in MCL 722.1204(2), the trial court’s
determination under the UCCJEA is enforceable and is made final once the Kentucky court
surrendered jurisdiction of BNS to the trial court. Thus, the trial court properly exercised
temporary emergency jurisdiction in those proceedings.
Respondent next argues that the trial court erred in terminating her parental rights
because the statutory requirements were not proven by clear and convincing evidence. This
court reviews the lower court’s determination under the clearly erroneous standard. MCR
3.977(J); In re Sours Minors, 459 Mich 624, 633; 593 NW2d 520 (1999). A finding of fact is
clearly erroneous if the reviewing court has a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed, giving due regard to the trial court’s special opportunity to observe the
witnesses. In re Miller, 433 Mich 331, 337; 445 NW2d 161 (1989).
Here, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence supported terminating
respondent’s parental rights under MCL 712A.19b(3)(c)(i), (g), and (j). To uphold the
termination of parental rights, this Court need only affirm one of the three statutory grounds.
MCL 712A.19b(5); In re Trejo Minors, 462 Mich 341, 356; 612 NW2d 407 (2000). This Court
is not convinced that the trial court clearly erred in finding that clear and convincing evidence
supported the termination of respondent’s parental rights. Throughout the termination
proceedings, respondent was given numerous opportunities to regain visitation rights by the
court. However, respondent failed to comply with drug screens and treatment programs, used
alcohol and cocaine, could not maintain employment, was arrested for drunk and disorderly
conduct, and was convicted of criminal mischief in Kentucky. Because of respondent’s lack of
compliance with the court’s guidelines after she was given fair and ample opportunities, the trial
court did not err in determining that the conditions that led to the adjudication continue to exist
and will not be rectified within a reasonable time. MCL 712A.19(b)(3)(c)(i).
Respondent is currently incarcerated in Kentucky. While she has taken classes to
reintegrate herself into society and combat substance abuse, this is insufficient to overcome the
trial court’s determinations. There is little, if any, evidence to support respondent’s ability to
provide proper care for BNS in a reasonable time following her release from jail. MCL
712A.19(b)(3)(c)(g). She has not attended parenting classes at the request of the petitioner, nor
has she secured housing or employment following her release.
We also hold that termination was in the best interests of the child. While the trial court
did not explicitly articulate that termination of parental rights was in BNS’s best interest,1 the
evidence supports such a finding. During visits to BNS, respondent was observed having little
interest in improving the parent-child bond. She was seen talking on her cell phone during visits,
complaining to the child about her personal problems, making promises she did not fulfill, and
missing scheduled visits. Furthermore, BNS became indifferent to respondent’s absence from
scheduled visits. While this Court does not diminish the importance of a parent-child bond, it
would be in her best interest to be placed with a guardian who can provide a stable and suitable
/s/ Patrick M. Meter
/s/ Christopher M. Murray
/s/ Jane M. Beckering
See MCL 712A.19b(5). Although the trial court did not articulate this standard, in light of the
evidence failure to do so was harmless error. In re Hill, 221 Mich App 683, 696; 562 NW2d 254