M.H. v. State

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M.H. v. State

2001 UT App 387

IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS

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State of Utah, in the interest of R.H., L.H., N.H., J.H., and C.C., persons under eighteen years of age.

______________________________

M.H.,
Appellant,

v.

State of Utah,
Appellee.

MEMORANDUM DECISION
(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 20010309-CA

F I L E D
(December 13, 2001)

 

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Third District Juvenile, Salt Lake Department
The Honorable Olof A. Johansson

Attorneys: 
John E. Laherty, Salt Lake City, for Appellant
Mark L. Shurtleff and John Peterson, Salt Lake City, for Appellee
Martha Pierce and Elizabeth M. Knight, Salt Lake City, Guardians Ad Litem

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Before Judges Bench, Billings, and Thorne.

BILLINGS, Judge:

Appellant, mother of L.H. (Daughter), R.H., N.H., J.H., and C.C., appeals the juvenile court's determination that she neglected her children. We affirm.

Under Utah law a "neglected child" is a minor "whose parent . . . has subjected [the child] to mistreatment or abuse." Utah Code Ann. § 78-3a-103(1)(r)(i)(A) (Supp. 2000). Appellant claims the juvenile court's findings of fact were insufficient to support the conclusion that Appellant neglected her children. Appellant specifically argues that her decision not to believe Daughter's allegation of sexual abuse by her stepfather should not lead to the determination that Appellant's children were neglected.

Even under Appellant's version of the facts, Appellant's response to Daughter's claim of sexual abuse by Appellant's husband was not reasonable given Appellant's duty to protect her children from mistreatment or abuse. Parents "will be held to have allowed . . . [mistreatment or] abuse if the objective evidence available to [them] should have prompted adequate protective measures from a responsible parent similarly situated." In re Katherine C., 471 N.Y.S.2d 216, 218 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 1984). This standard does not require parents to blindly believe their children's unsupported claims of abuse; rather, parents simply must act reasonably to protect their children from mistreatment or abuse.

In this case, Appellant's actions were unreasonable. When Daughter told Appellant that she had been sexually abused by Appellant's husband, Appellant chose not to believe her and insisted she was lying. Appellant's children were ultimately taken into protective custody by the Division of Child and Family Services because Appellant would not remove her husband from the home, and instead chose to have her children removed. Because "[c]hild abuse . . . is so serious per se, that parents must simply prevent it," id. at 221, it was not reasonable for Appellant to simply ignore or disbelieve Daughter's serious allegation, without acting to ensure Daughter's safety.

Because Appellant failed to protect her children from potential mistreatment or abuse, we affirm the juvenile court's determination that Appellant's children were neglected.

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Judith M. Billings, Judge

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WE CONCUR:

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Russell W. Bench, Judge

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William A. Thorne, Jr., Judge