State of Utah, in the interest of J.B.Annotate this Case
State of Utah, in the interest
a person under eighteen years of age.
J.B. and D.B.,
State of Utah,
(Not For Official Publication)
Case No. 20000050-CA
Case No. 20000051-CA
F I L E D
February 1, 2001 2001 UT App 33 -----
Third District Juvenile,
Salt Lake Department
The Honorable Joseph W. Anderson
John E. Laherty, Salt Lake City, for Appellant J.B.
Scott L. Wiggins, Salt Lake City, for Appellant D.B.
Mark Shurtleff and John Peterson, Salt Lake City, for Appellee
Martha Pierce and Christine S. Decker, Salt Lake City, Guardians Ad Litem
Before Judges Jackson, Billings, and Orme.
This consolidated appeal challenges a decision terminating the parental rights of both parents of the minor child.
The mother does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the findings of fact, but argues the findings are inadequate as a matter of law to support the conclusion that the mother is an unfit parent. Because the findings are unchallenged, we proceed to determine whether the findings support one or more of the grounds for termination. We will overturn the juvenile court's conclusions of law only if the court has abused its discretion. See In re S.L., 1999 UT App 390,¶3, 995 P.2d 17. The conclusion of parental unfitness was based upon a history of violent behavior by and between the parents. The State's theory was that the mother was unfit because she failed to protect J.B. from the effects of domestic violence. The findings support the conclusion of parental unfitness, and the court did not abuse its discretion. In addition, the trial court concluded it was appropriate to terminate appellants' parental rights on the alternative grounds of "failure of parental adjustment" and "token efforts," based upon the parents' failure to substantially comply with any service plans following the second removal of J.B. "The State need only prove one ground for . . . parental rights to be terminated." In re J.N., 960 P.2d 403, 411 (Utah Ct. App. 1998); see also Utah Code Ann. § 78-3a-407 (1996). Appellants have not challenged the findings and conclusions on "failure of parental adjustment" or "token efforts." Accordingly, the trial court's decision may be affirmed based on the alternative grounds.
The father argues that the court gave insufficient weight to evidence of his present parenting ability. Although noting evidence of recent improvement, the court weighed this evidence against the "period of time during which domestic violence was documented and the magnitude of the violence and its effect on [J.B.] coupled with the parents' failure to address the underlying problems of the father's alcohol and/or substance abuse and the mother's anger," which "demonstrates that the parents will not be able to resume appropriate parenting within a reasonable time." The juvenile court engaged in the appropriate analysis of present ability and past conduct. See In re S.L., 1999 UT App 390 at ¶33 ("While the juvenile court must consider a parent's present ability, it must also consider the parent's past conduct and the time during which the parent has failed to remedy the situation, thereby causing further deterioration of the parent-child relationship."). We cannot say the juvenile court abused its discretion in the weight and consideration it gave to present parenting ability.
Appellants each argue that the juvenile court did not make sufficient findings as a matter of law regarding the best interests of the child. "A juvenile court is required to bifurcate its analysis of the grounds for termination and the best interests of the children." In re S.T., 928 P.2d 393, 399 (Utah Ct. App. 1996). Utah Code Ann. § 78-3a-409 (Supp. 2000) lists factors the court "shall consider" in cases where a child is not in the parents' custody. Similarly, Utah Code Ann. § 78-3a-410 (Supp. 2000) lists factors the court "shall consider" if a child is in a foster home and the goal is adoption by the foster family. In S.T., appellants argued the juvenile court did not consider the factors enumerated in section 78-3a-409. This court rejected the challenge, stating that "[w]hile the juvenile court did not expressly refer to the statute when considering these factors, the court's findings are replete with detailed discussion of the offered services, the children's conditions and needs, and appellants' efforts." Id. at 400. Accordingly, this court concluded that the juvenile court had properly considered the statutory factors. See id.; see also In re R.A.J., 1999 UT App 329,¶20, 991 P.2d 1118 (stating "[a]lthough the juvenile court did not expressly refer to [section 78-3a-409] when considering these factors," the findings demonstrate the court adequately examined each factor). In the present appeal, appellants contend the juvenile court failed to make findings on each factor enumerated in section 78-3a-410, and specifically claim the court failed to compare the capacity and disposition of the foster parents and the appellants. The findings in the section captioned "best interests" include findings that J.B. has spent most of his life out of his parents' custody; he had been in the present foster placement for roughly one year at the time of trial; he was bonded to his foster family and considers them to be his parents; he has "blended well" with the foster family's extended family; he is "thriving and happy" in the foster home; and the foster parents desire to adopt him. Under the circumstances of this case, we conclude the findings are adequate to demonstrate the trial court's consideration of the statutory factors.
Accordingly, we affirm the
Norman H. Jackson,
Associate Presiding Judge
Judith M. Billings, Judge
Gregory K. Orme, Judge