In re N.M.Annotate this Case
In these dependency proceedings, T.M. (Father) appealed from a juvenile court exit order awarding sole physical custody of minors N.M. and S.M. to E.S. (Mother), contending no substantial evidence supported the order.
The Second Appellate District agreed and therefore reversed the order insofar as it grants sole physical custody to Mother. The court explained that here, the juvenile court made no express finding that granting sole physical custody to Mother would be in the children’s best interests. Instead, the court stated, “It’s not appropriate to reward a parent who does nothing in this court, so I’m not going to make it joint legal.” The court thus granted Mother sole custody to avoid rewarding Father, who had refused to participate meaningfully in the case plan. This was an abuse of discretion because an exit order must serve the best interests of the children, not reward or punish one parent or another for failing to comply with the case plan.
The court explained that while it does not condone ignoring the court’s orders, there has been no express finding that these factors impacted the children’s interests, and no grounds appear for an implied finding. Father has never been deemed an offending parent, and no evidence suggested that his drug use, lack of a parenting class, or visitation practices impacted the children in any way.