may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of:
Filed June 24, 1997
Scott County District Court
File No. 968979
Michael W. McDonald, First Judicial District Public Defender, 16670 Franklin Trail S.E., #250, Prior Lake, MN 55372 (for Appellant)
Dennis Patrick Moriarty, 206 Scott Street, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Appellant William Standiford challenges the district court's termination of his parental rights with respect to his son, B.S.M., arguing that there is not clear and convincing evidence supporting the termination. We affirm.
B.S.M.'s guardian ad litem recommended that Standiford's parental rights be terminated because (1) Standiford has chemical dependency problems, (2) Standiford has not seen B.S.M. in eight years, and (3) B.S.M. has no desire to see Standiford and wishes to be adopted by his stepfather. Standiford has not contributed financially to B.S.M.'s care and has seen B.S.M. infrequently. The district court found that Standiford's chemical dependency, active alcoholism, and problems with the law will continue for the "foreseeable future" and granted Cray's petition to terminate Standiford's parental rights on the grounds that Standiford abandoned B.S.M. and termination was in B.S.M.'s best interests.
Parental rights may be terminated pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260.221 (1996). To terminate parental rights, the petitioner must show by clear and convincing evidence that at least one of the statutory grounds for termination exists. In re Welfare of R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Minn. App. 1992). The evidence must address conditions that exist at the time of the hearing, and it must appear that the conditions will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period of time. In re Welfare of Chosa, 290 N.W.2d 766, 769 (Minn. 1980). A district court's findings regarding termination of parental rights will not be disturbed unless clearly erroneous. R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d at 3.
Abandonment may be presumed if
(i) the parent has had no contact with the child on a regular basis and no demonstrated, consistent interest in the child's well-being for six months; and
(ii) the social service agency has made reasonable efforts to facilitate contact, unless the parent establishes that an extreme financial or physical hardship or treatment for mental disability or chemical dependency or other good cause prevented the parent from making contact with the child.
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(1). However, "[t]he court is not prohibited from finding abandonment in the absence of this presumption." Id., subd. 1(b)(1)(ii). A child has been abandoned when the parent has not only deserted the child, but also has shown an intention to forsake the duties of parenthood. In re Welfare of Staat, 287 Minn. 501, 505-6, 178 N.W.2d 709, 713 (1970). Imprisonment alone is not enough to constitute abandonment, but may combine with other factors, including neglect and withholding of affection, to support a finding of abandonment. Id. at 506, 178 N.W.2d at 713.
Standiford has been in and out of prison since B.S.M. was born, frequently for violent offenses. He has not contributed financially to B.S.M.'s care. He has sabotaged his relationship with B.S.M. by the threatening behavior he has directed at B.S.M.'s mother, who was granted a restraining order against him in 1988. Standiford has been through several drug and alcohol treatment programs, the last of which accepted him shortly before the termination hearing. After he was accepted to that treatment program, but before he entered it, Standiford was arrested for and is facing charges for attempting to purchase marijuana, assault, and lewd conduct. These facts are clear and convincing evidence that Standiford has not fulfilled and does not intend to fulfill his parental duties with respect to B.S.M. The record supports the district court's finding that Standiford's present condition will continue indefinitely and its conclusion that Standiford abandoned B.S.M.
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 4, provides that
the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration, provided that * * * at least one condition in subdivision 1, clause (b) [is] found by the court.
The court balances three factors in analyzing the best interests of the child: (1) the interest of the child in preserving the parent-child relationship; (2) the interest of the parent in preserving the relationship; and (3) any competing interest of the child, including stability of the home environment and the child's preference. R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d at 4.
In this case, there is no real parent-child relationship because of the lack of contact between B.S.M. and Standiford. B.S.M. lives in a stable home with his mother and her husband, who wishes to adopt him. B.S.M. wants to be adopted by his stepfather. The district court did not err in concluding that termination of Standiford's parental rights is in B.S.M.'s best interests.