State of Utah, in the interest of A.A., B.S., G.A., and M.A.

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State of Utah, in the interest of A.A., B.S., G.A., and M.A., persons under eighteen years of age, Case No. 20000671-CA, Filed October 25, 2001 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


State of Utah, in the interest of A.A., B.S., G.A., and M.A.,
persons under eighteen years of age.



State of Utah,

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 20000671-CA

October 25, 2001 2001 UT App 316 -----

Third District Juvenile, Salt Lake Department
The Honorable Sharon P. McCully

Russell Smith, Draper, for Appellant
Mark L. Shurtleff and John Peterson, Salt Lake City, for Appellee
Martha Pierce and Christine S. Decker, Salt Lake City, Guardians Ad Litem


Before Judges Bench, Davis, and Orme.

BENCH, Judge:

"Utah law requires a court to make two distinct findings before terminating a parent-child relationship." In re R.A.J., 1999 UT App 329,¶7, 991 P.2d 1118. First, it must make a finding that the parent is "'below some minimum threshold of fitness.'" Id. (citation omitted). Second, the court must determine that the "best interests and welfare of the child are served" by termination. Id. In this case, it is clear both from the oral and written findings that the juvenile court properly completed both steps before terminating Appellant's parental rights. The juvenile court made specific findings regarding neglect and abuse, the parents' unfitness or incompetence, and their token efforts at rectifying the problems. It then made findings as to the children's best interests. Each finding is very specific, including on which witness's testimony the court based the finding.

Appellant objects to the juvenile court's use of the same facts to find both that the parents were unfit, and that it was in the children's best interests to terminate the parents' rights. Appellant misunderstands what is required of the juvenile court. "[B]ifurcating the analysis does not require courts to separately hear and consider evidence pertaining to unfitness and best interests. Instead, bifurcation requires courts to first find statutory grounds for termination before considering whether termination is in the children's best interest." In re S.T., 928 P.2d 393, 399 (Utah Ct. App. 1996).

Here, the juvenile court found that the children were neglected or abused because of the children's continued exposure to illegal drug use, Appellant's failure to provide for the children's day-to-day needs because of his repeated and voluntary incarcerations, and Appellant's failure to visit the children because of his unwillingness to submit to drug testing. The court also found that Appellant had made only token efforts at rectifying these deficiencies and concluded that Appellant was an unfit parent.

The juvenile court then made findings as to the best interests of the children. The court found that Appellant could not provide a stable, secure environment for the children, or provide for their day-to-day needs, that Appellant had failed to establish a meaningful relationship with the children due to his repeated incarceration throughout most of their lives, and that the children were all adoptable and adoptive homes had been located. From these findings, the court concluded that the children's interests were best served by terminating Appellant's parental rights.

Based on our review of the record, we cannot say that the evidence "'clearly preponderates against the findings'" or that in reaching its conclusions of law the juvenile court exceeded its discretion. R.A.J., 1999 UT App 329 at ¶13. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the juvenile court.

Russell W. Bench, Judge -----


James Z. Davis, Judge

Gregory K. Orme, Judge