IN RE SYDNEY RAE NEWSOM MINORAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of ANGELA HAMMETT, BRENT
GEORGE, SYDNEY RAE NEWSOM, and
ANDREA HAMMETT, Minors.
FAMILY INDEPENDENCE AGENCY
November 6, 1998
Jackson Probate Court
LC No. 92-017590 NA
DAVID MCCLUER and WILLIAM NEWSOM,
In the Matter of SYDNEY RAE NEWSOM, a/k/a
SIDNEY RAE NEWSOM, Minor.
FAMILY INDEPENDENCE AGENCY,
Jackson Probate Court
LC No. 92-017590
Before: Talbot, P.J., and McDonald and Neff, JJ.
In Docket No. 209629, respondent Cassie Hammett appeals as of right from an order
terminating her parental rights to her minor children pursuant to MCL 712A.19b(3)(c)(i), (g) and (j);
MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(3)(c)(i), (g) and (j). In Docket No. 209680, respondent William Newsom,
appeals as of right from the same order terminating his parental rights to his daughter, Sydney Newsom,
pursuant to the same statutory grounds. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
The permanent termination of parental rights is an extremely serious matter. In re Sanchez, 422
Mich 758, 765; 375 NW2d 353 (1985). Accordingly, in the probate court the petitioner bears the
burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that a statutory ground for termination has been
met. MCR 5.974(A)(3) and (F)(3); MCL 712A.19b(3); MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(3); In re HallSmith, 222 Mich App 470, 472-473; 564 NW2d 156 (1997). If the court finds at least one statutory
ground for termination, it must terminate parental rights, unless it finds that termination is clearly not in
the child’s best interests. MCL 712A.19b(5); MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(5); Hall-Smith, supra at 472
473. On appeal, the court’s decision regarding termination is reviewed in its entirety for clear error.
MCR 5.974(I); Hall-Smith, supra at 472. A finding is clearly erroneous if, although there is evidence
to support the finding, the Court is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake was made. In
re Miller, 433 Mich 331, 337; 445 NW2d 161 (1989).
Docket No. 209629
With respect to respondent Hammett, after reviewing the entire record we conclude that the
probate court did not clearly err in finding that the statutory grounds for termination were established.
We also conclude that the probate court did not clearly err when it determined that the evidence failed
to support a finding that the termination of respondent Hammett’s parental rights would not be in the
best interests of the children. Accordingly, respondent Hammett is not entitled to relief on appeal.
Hall-Smith, supra at 472-473.
Docket No. 209680
With respect to respondent Newsom, we first address the termination of his parental rights
pursuant to MCL 712A.19b(3)(c)(i); MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(3)(c)(i). Although the condition which
led to Sydney’s initial adjudication as a neglected minor and temporary ward of the state – respondent
Newsom’s incarceration – continued to exist at the time of the order terminating his parental rights, the
record indicates that respondent Newsom was only six months away from completing his minimum term
of imprisonment, at which time he would be “up for parole.” The record further indicates that Sydney
was only three years old and residing in a relatively stable environment with respondent Newsom’s
mother, Nancy Nugent. Given these facts, we hold that the probate court clearly erred in finding “no
reasonable likelihood that the conditions [would] be rectified within a reasonable time considering the
age of the child.” MCL 712A.19b(3)(c)(i); MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(3)(c)(i). Simply put, at the time
of the order, the probate court’s action on this statutory ground for termination was premature.
We next address the termination of respondent Newsom’s parental rights pursuant to MCL
712A.19b(3)(g); MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(3)(g). The probate court found that respondent Newsom
took good care of Sydney when she was in his custody and that they were well attached to each other.
The evidence at the termination hearing also indicated that, during the period of his incarceration,
respondent Newsom arranged for his mother to take care of Sydney. When respondent Newsom was
incarcerated on the parole violation and Sydney was returned to the care of respondent Hammett,
respondent Newsom filed a complaint against respondent Hammett alleging that she was unable to
properly care for Sydney. At this point, the court removed Sydney from respondent Hammett’s care
and Sydney was eventually placed with Nugent, where respondent Newsom believed she should be
placed. Finally, respondent Newsom testified at the termination hearing that, during his incarceration, he
continued to have has much contact with Sydney as possible by way of cards and telephone calls.
Given the uncontroverted evidence of respondent Newsom’s successful efforts to attend to Sydney’s
well-being before and during his incarceration, we hold that the probate court clearly erred in finding
that he failed “to provide proper care or custody” for her and that “there is no reasonable expectation
that [he would] be able to provide proper care and custody within a reasonable time considering the age
of the child.” MCL 712A.19b(3)(g); MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(3)(g); cf. In re Curry, 113 Mich App
821, 824-826; 318 NW2d 567 (1982) (explaining that a parent may still provide proper parental care
without actually being present by entrusting the care of the child to relatives).
The probate court also terminated respondent Newsom’s parental rights pursuant to MCL
712A.19b(3)(j); MSA 27.3178(598.19b)(3)(j). However, this statutory ground for termination was
not among those included in the petition for termination. Therefore, termination of respondent
Newsom’s parental rights on this basis was improper.
See MCL 712A.19b(1); MSA
Because no statutory ground for termination was supported by the record, we hold that the
probate court clearly erred in terminating respondent Newsom’s parental rights. Hall-Smith, supra at
Docket No. 209629 is affirmed. Docket No. 209680 is reversed.
/s/ Michael J. Talbot
/s/ Gary R. McDonald
/s/ Janet T. Neff