In re Adoption/Guardianship of H.W.Annotate this Case
When assessing whether exceptional circumstances exist that make continuing the parental relationship detrimental to a child’s best interests, a juvenile court errs by considering custody-specific factors used to determine exceptional circumstances in third-party custody disputes.
The Baltimore City Department of Social Services filed a petition for guardianship with the right to consent to adoption or long term care short adoption for Child. The juvenile court analyzed, among other things, the statutory factors set forth in Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law 5-323(d) to determine whether exceptional circumstances existed that made continuing the parental relationship detrimental to Chile’s best interests. The juvenile court concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence that Father was unfit. The Court of Special Appeals vacated the juvenile court’s decision, concluding that the juvenile court by using four factors related exclusively to custody of the child in deciding to terminate Father’s parental rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) factors pertaining exclusively to custody have no place in termination of parental rights assessments under section 5-323; but (2) the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion when, based on an appropriate statutory analysis, it terminated Father’s parental rights.