This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).




In the Matter of the Welfare of:

M.P., H.P., H.P., and L.P., children.

Filed October 1, 1996


Klaphake, Judge

Freeborn County District Court

File No. J0-94-50616

Candace Rasmussen, Third Judicial District Public Defender, Karl W. Sonneman, Assistant Public Defender, 111 Riverfront, Suite 202, Winona, MN 55987 (for Appellant H.P.)

Craig S. Nelson, Freeborn County Attorney, Erin Marie O'Brien, Assistant County Attorney, 411 South Broadway, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (for Respondent Freeborn County)

Thomas Bennett Wilson III, 4933 France Avenue South, #220, Edina, MN 55410 (for Respondent Mother)

Susan Dammen, Route 3, Box 85, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (Guardian Ad Litem)

Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.



H.P., the second eldest of four children born to I.P., appeals the trial court's termination of I.P.'s parental rights. Because the trial court adequately addressed H.P.'s best interests, we affirm.


In reviewing a decision to terminate parental rights, this court must determine whether the trial court's findings address the statutory criteria, whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether the findings are clearly erroneous. In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990). The best interests of the child is the paramount consideration, and "a child's best interests can preclude termination of parental rights despite one or more of the statutory prerequisites to terminate parental rights." In re Welfare of M.P., H.P., H.P. & L.P., 542 N.W.2d 71, 75 (Minn. App. 1996) (citations omitted). This court must "exercise great caution" in terminating parental rights. In re Welfare of Kidd, 261 N.W.2d 833, 835 (Minn. 1978), quoted in In re Welfare of T.M.D., 374 N.W.2d 206, 211 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Nov. 25, 1985).

H.P. does not challenge the trial court's conclusion that I.P. was palpably unfit to parent her. See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(4) (1994). Rather, she claims error in the court's best interests analysis which alone could support reversal. H.P. argues that the court arbitrarily decided her best interests would be served by termination without considering that adoption was unlikely and continuing contact with her mother was likely. Specifically, H.P. contends the trial court (1) engaged in unreasonable speculation regarding I.P.'s future behavior; (2) gave undue weight to the guardian ad litem's opinion; and (3) arbitrarily treated the eldest daughter, M.P., differently from H.P., the second eldest.

1. Speculation Regarding I.P.'s Future Behavior

"Termination of parental rights requires prospective consideration of a child's best interests." M.P., 542 N.W.2d at 76 (citation omitted); see also T.M.D., 374 N.W.2d at 211-12 (termination of parental rights affirmed where parent's "deep-seated psychological problems" created likelihood of harm to child). We observe no error in the trial court's consideration of I.P.'s future behavior as it relates to H.P.'s best interests. Copious evidence demonstrates that H.P. has been harmed by I.P.'s efforts both to reunite the family and to litigate this matter. There was substantial evidence supporting the trial court's conclusion that termination of I.P.'s rights would have the positive effect of reducing H.P.'s instability caused by I.P.'s actions.

2. Undue Weight Given to Guardian Ad Litem Recommendation

The trial court's findings reflect that it thoroughly considered abundant evidence before it concluded that termination of I.P.'s parental rights to H.P. was in H.P.'s best interests. There is no showing that any single item of evidence controlled the court's decision. We also note that the record reflects that the guardian ad litem's recommendations were based on her personal knowledge gained from continuous and substantial involvement with H.P.'s case throughout these proceedings, including the guardian's independent inquiries of experts working with the family. Therefore, there was no error in the trial court's consideration of and agreement with the guardian ad litem's recommendation.

3. M.P. Treated Differently from H.P.

Each child's best interests is a separate issue. Maxfield v. Maxfield, 452 N.W.2d 219, 223 (Minn. 1990). Because of this, the trial court made express findings relating to each child. Due to the family dynamics and the four petitions individually on behalf of all four children, however, the court also considered the group in its decision. Although the trial court identified several factors common to M.P. and H.P., it found weighty differences justifying termination of I.P.'s rights to H.P., but not to the oldest daughter, M.P.

Considering the trial court's findings as a whole, they do not require the same treatment for M.P. and H.P. Although the girls are only two years apart in age, H.P.'s mental health does not allow much weight to be given to her preference regarding termination. H.P. has "reactive attachment disorder" and has made less progress in therapy than M.P. M.P. has become more trusting of adults, while H.P. has "made minimal progress." H.P. also expressed that she did not want to return home to her mother even though she did not want her mother's rights terminated. Finally, the trial court found that "[m]ost of all, what [H.P.] needs is for a final determination to be made." The trial court made that decision, and we conclude that it was not clearly erroneous.