This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

CX-00-1256

 

In the Matter of the Welfare of R.M.S.

 

Filed January 23, 2001

Affirmed

Toussaint, Chief Judge

 

Kandiyohi County District Court

 File No. J00050088

 

John E. Mack, P.O. Box 302, New London, MN 56273  (for respondent mother)

 

Mark Weber, 822 Minnesota Street, Apartment #8, Paynesville, MN 56362 (pro se respondent father)

 

 John L. Kallestad, 316 S.W. Fourth Street, P.O., Box 1126, Willmar, MN 56201 (for appellant)

 

 

            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.*

 

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

 

TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

Intervenor Kandiyohi County Family Services appeals from a district court order terminating Mark Weber’s parental rights to R.M.S, arguing that the record does not support the district court’s conclusion that (1) Weber had shown good cause for voluntary termination within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(a) (2000), and (2) that Weber had abandoned the child within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(1) (2000).  Because the district court’s findings have support in the record, we affirm.

F A C T S

Respondents Rhonda Snavely and Mark Weber are the parents of R.M.S who was born June 4, 1999.  The respondents have never been married.  Weber has never had custody of, visited with, or financially provided for R.M.S.

            On January 27, 2000, Weber and Snavely, together, filed a petition for the termination of Weber’s parental rights seeking termination on two bases: (1) that Weber had good cause for voluntary termination within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(a) (2000); and (2) that Weber’s parental rights should be involuntarily terminated because he had abandoned the child with the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(1) (2000).  Kandiyohi County Family Services intervened and requested the appointment of a guardian ad litem. 

The guardian as litem visited the home of R.M.S. and Snavely, reporting that the home was a fit and proper environment for raising R.M.S. and that Snavely is a fit and proper person to parent R.M.S.  The guardian ad litem also visited Weber, reporting that Weber expressed no desire to be a parent to R.M.S. 

After hearing the evidence, the district court terminated Weber’s parental rights, concluding that (1) Weber had shown good cause for voluntary termination; and (2) that Weber had abandoned the child.  Intervenor Kandiyohi County Family Services appeals.

D E C I S I O N

            On appeal of a termination of parental rights, the appellate court reviews whether the district court’s findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether those findings are clearly erroneous.  In re Welfare of D.D.G.,558 N.W.2d 481, 484 (Minn. 1997).  Circumstances that justify involuntary termination do not necessarily justify voluntary termination.  In re Welfare of J.D.N., 504 N.W.2d, 54, 56 (Minn. App. 1993).

I.

Appellant argues that the district court’s finding that there was good cause for the voluntary termination of Weber’s parental rights was not supported by substantial evidence.  Parental rights may be terminated with the written consent of a parent who for good cause desires termination.  Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(a) (2000).  “Good cause” is not defined in the statute, but has been applied in In re Welfare of Alle, 304 Minn. 254, 230 N.W.2d 574 (1975).  There, the Minnesota Supreme Court examined the purpose and intent of the statute to determine when good cause could be found:

The statute is generally aimed at two ends: First, to enable the judicial system to legally remove a child from a destructive or unhealthy home environment, * * * and, secondly, to facilitate adoption procedures by providing a means by which existing parental rights may be voluntarily terminated.

 

Id. at 257, 230 N.W.2d at 576.  The “paramount consideration” when determining whether termination of parental rights is appropriate remains the best interest of the child.  In re Welfare of M.P., 542 N.W.2d 71, 74 (Minn. App. 1996) (citations omitted).

In reaching its decision that the termination of Weber’s parental rights was in the best interest of R.M.S., the trial court stated:

[T]he relationship between R.M.S. and Weber is now, has been in the past, and will likely be in the future, biological only.  The termination of Mark Weber’s parental rights will prevent uncertainty in the parenting of R.M.S., and facilitate the development of other significant relationships with her.  The termination of Mark Weber’s parental rights is in the best interests of R.M.S.

 

Contrary to appellant’s assertions, the record clearly supports this conclusion.  First, Weber testified that if he remained the father, the constant arguments over parenting issues would cause turmoil for R.M.S.  Second, Snavely testified in support of the termination of Weber’s rights, stating that she would be able to provide a better life for R.M.S. if Weber was not involved.  Third, there was no suggestion by either parent, that Weber was seeking termination of his parental right merely to avoid child support.  Rather, both parents indicated that their decision to seek termination of Weber’s parental rights arose out of a desire to provide a more stable environment for R.M.S.  Finally, the guardian ad litem supported the termination of Weber’s parental rights because Weber’s status as a mere biological father served only to hamper Snavely’s ability to create and maintain a healthy environment for R.M.S.  This evidence provides adequate support for the district court’s conclusion.  See In re Welfare of S.F., 482 N.W.2d 500, 503 (Minn. App. 1992) (finding good cause for termination of father’s rights where (1) the mother sought termination; (2) the only involvement by the father in the child’s upbringing was disruptive; and (3) the father was “not attempting to have his rights terminated to avoid his support obligation”).  Accordingly, we affirm the voluntary termination of Weber’s parental rights.

II.

Appellant argues that the district court’s finding of abandonment was not supported by substantial evidence.  Under Minnesota law, a parent’s rights may be involuntarily terminated if it is found that the parent has abandoned his child.  Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 subd. 1(b)(1) (2000).  Abandonment takes place where there is an intention to forsake the duties of parenthood.  In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 398 (Minn. App. 1996).   A biological father’s failure to visit the child, a refusal to accept responsibility for the child, and a failure to provide financial or emotional support to the child demonstrates an intention to forsake the duties of parenthood and provides a basis for the termination of parental rights.  See id.  When making a termination decision, the court is to rely “not primarily on past history, but to a great extent upon the projected permanency of the parent’s inability to care for his or her child.”  In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893 (Minn. 1996) (citation and quotation omitted).

Applying these principles, there is substantial evidence in the record to support the district court’s determination that Weber had abandoned R.M.S.  Weber has never seen R.M.S., nor provided financial support to R.M.S.  Further, Weber testified that he does not want to see, nor provide for, R.M.S. unless requested or ordered to do so.  Therefore, the evidence adequately supports the district court’s determination that Weber had abandoned R.M.S. See L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d at 398 (finding abandonment where father had no contact with child other than one visit 2 weeks after child’s birth, showed no consistent interest in the child’s well-being, never offered to help the mother with child-bearing or child-rearing expenses, and deserted the mother when she was 5 months pregnant).  Accordingly, we affirm the involuntary termination of Weber’s parental rights on the basis of abandonment.

III.

Respondent asserts that the fundamental principles of estoppel operate to deprive the county of its standing to appeal the termination of parental rights of a parent where both parents and a guardian ad litem believe that the rights of one of the parents should be terminated.  Because the district court’s decision to terminate Weber’s parental rights was proper, we need not address this issue.

Affirmed.



            * Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.