State of Utah, in the interest of T.E.P.

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State of Utah, in the interest of T.E.P., a person under eighteen years of age., Case No. 20000504-CA, Filed March 15, 2001 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


State of Utah, in the interest of T.E.P.,
a person under eighteen years of age.



State of Utah,

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 20000504-CA

March 15, 2001
2001 UT App 92

Second District Juvenile, Ogden Department
The Honorable L. Kent Bachman

Maurice Richards, Ogden, for Appellant
Mark L. Shurtleff and John Peterson, Salt Lake City, for Appellee
Martha Pierce, Salt Lake City, Guardian Ad Litem


Before Judges Jackson, Orme, and Thorne.

THORNE, Judge:

Appellant D.J. appeals from an order terminating her parental rights. We affirm.

D.J. argues for the first time on appeal that she was "denied due process of law . . . when the Utah Department of Child and Family Services [(DCFS)] . . . failed to devise a reunification program that took into account her intelligence level and also her mental illness." Generally, "'[this court] will not consider on appeal issues which were not submitted to the trial court and concerning which the trial court did not have the opportunity to make any findings of fact or law.'" In re M.W., 2000 UT 79,¶29, 12 P.3d 80 (citation omitted). Under appropriate circumstances, when the best interest of the child is
at stake, we may look past a party's failure to strictly adhere to procedural rules. See In re R.N.J., 908 P.2d 345, 349 (Utah

Ct. App. 1995) (stating "furtherance of judicial efficiency and equity must give way when the central issue to be decided concerns the best interests of a child"), superceded on other grounds by statute in In re E.H.H., 2000 UT App 368, 16 P.3d 1257.

However, adherence to procedural rules, such as the rule at issue here, takes on added significance when abused or neglected children are involved because "the public policy underlying our child welfare laws, . . . is to provide stability and permanency for abused and neglected children, and to end the '"legal limbo"' of state custody as quickly as possible." In re S.L., 1999 UT App 390,¶42, 995 P.2d 17 (citation omitted), cert. denied, 4 P.3d 1289 (Utah 2000). As such, our statutes instruct both DCFS and the juvenile courts to timely pursue one of two paths when addressing situations involving neglected or abused children, timely reunification or termination. See In re J.P., 921 P.2d 1012, 1020 (Utah Ct. App. 1996).

By waiting to raise her objection for the first time on appeal, Jones has left T.E.P. in a state of uncertainty for an additional year. Moreover, T.E.P. has been in DCFS care since August 6, 1998, which is clearly not in T.E.P's best interest. If D.J. had raised her objections below, the trial court could have evaluated, and possibly altered, the service plan to reflect her limitations. However, by failing to do so, D.J. waived her objections and it is now improper to raise these objections on appeal.

Finally, the juvenile court's conclusion that D.J. was unfit or incompetent does not require a finding that the State provided "reasonable and adequate services before terminating parental rights." In re M.E.C., 942 P.2d 955, 960 (Utah Ct. App. 1997). Further, D.J. has failed to argue that the findings underlying this conclusion were clearly erroneous and "[a]s a result, we accept these findings as adequately supported by the record." Id.

Accordingly, we decline to reach the merits of D.J's claim and affirm the juvenile court's ruling.

William A. Thorne, Jr., Judge -----


Norman H. Jackson,
Associate Presiding Judge

Gregory K. Orme, Judge