This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
R.B. and A.B.
Filed August 24, 1999
Renville County District Court
File No. J1-98-50009, JX-98-50011
Curtis L. Reese, Selander and Reese, P.L.L.P., 207 South Eighth Street, P.O. Box 56, Olivia, MN 56277 (for appellant)
David J. Torgelson, Renville County Attorney, Chad B. Sterle, Assistant County Attorney, 800 East DePue Avenue, P.O. Box D, Olivia, MN 56277 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Norton, Judge.[*]
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
When the district court terminated the parental rights of appellant-mother Maria Becker, it allowed her visitation with the children as recommended by the guardian ad litem, and the right to receive certain reports while the children were in foster care. Later, based on expert recommendations, the district court terminated visitation and motherís right to receive the reports. Mother challenges these decisions. She also alleges the district court erred by not appointing counsel for the children and that her right to due process of law was violated. We affirm.
In June 1998, mother voluntarily terminated her parental rights to two children, ages 10 and 12. She states she did so on condition that she receive visitation and staffing reports pending adoption of the children. The order terminating parental rights indicates that before adoption, the guardian ad litem "may, in consultation with the counselors for the children, recommend [certain] supervised visitation." It also provided that "[a]ny party * * * (including the state/county)" could seek review of the guardian ad litemís visitation decision and that mother would receive "copies of the staffing reports or summaries of them."
In November 1998, the guardian ad litem and counselors stated that it was in the childrenís best interests to terminate motherís visitation. The district court did so and ordered that mother no longer receive reports. Mother appealed, seeking to raise issues involving the termination of her parental rights as well as visitation. Noting that the time to appeal the termination order had expired, this court limited the scope of the appeal to issues decided by the district court in the November proceeding.
D E C I S I O N
In proceedings involving the termination of parental rights, "the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration * * * [w]here the interests of parent and child conflict, the interests of the child are paramount." Minn. Stat. ß 260.221, subd. 4 (1998). Upon the termination of parental rights, a parentís right to visitation is "severed and terminated," and she "[has] no standing to appear at any further legal proceeding concerning the child." Minn. Stat. ß 260.241, subd. 1 (1998); see In re Welfare of D.D.G., 558 N.W.2d 481, 485 (Minn. 1997) (stating termination statute shows "the legislature intended a clean break in the parent-child relationship at the time of termination"). A district court, however, may allow contact between a parent and a child after termination of parental rights if such contact is in the childís best interests. In re Welfare of J.M., 574 N.W.2d 717, 722 (Minn. 1998) (stating that while termination of parental rights eliminates parentsí right to contact children, it "is not to be construed as an absolute prohibition on contact between a child and a parent if a judge deems such contact to be in the best interests of the child, pending adoption").
A district courtís visitation decision will not be overturned absent an abuse of its broad discretion. Olson v. Olson, 534 N.W.2d 547, 550 (Minn. 1995) (grandparent visitation); Manthei v. Manthei, 268 N.W.2d 45, 46 (Minn. 1978) (parental visitation). While mother tried to condition her termination of parental rights on her ability to visit the children, the district court rejected her attempt to do so, stating that visitation was (1) "unique in a parental termination case, exceptional;" (2) "not a promise or a guarantee of visitation;" and (3) essentially, at the discretion of the guardian ad litem who "may" recommend visitation. Thus, motherís unsuccessful attempt to terminate her parental rights conditionally is not relevant to this dispute.
Mother argues that the district court erred by not interviewing the children to determine their visitation preference. Because Mother did not request that the district court interview the children, the issue is waived on appeal. See D.D.G., 558 N.W.2d at 485 (issues raised for first time on appeal waived). Also, because the record shows these children have special needs, we cannot say that the record would require a reversal of the district court for any refusal to interview the children.
We reject any argument by mother that termination of visitation was not in the childrenís best interests. Because the guardian ad litem and a counselor testified that termination of motherís visitation is in the childrenís best interests, the record contains evidence supporting termination of motherís visitation. Also, because mother lost her parental rights when the termination order was final, the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that she is no longer entitled to receive the reports. See Minn. Stat. ß 260.241, subd. 1.
Mother argues that the district court erred by not appointing counsel for the children. The rules provide that children have the right to be represented by counsel and that the guardian ad litem shall be represented by the childrenís counsel. Minn. R. Juv. P. 40.01, subd. 1, 3 (providing childís right to counsel); Minn. R. Juv. P. 40.02 (providing guardian ad litemís right to be represented by childís counsel). This issue was not presented to the district court at the November proceeding; therefore, it is waived on appeal. See D.D.G., 558 N.W.2d at 485. Furthermore, any error in not appointing counsel for the children is harmless because the guardian ad litem, like the county, sought to terminate visitation. Counsel represented the county, and its position was consistent with that of the experts.
Mother alleges her right to procedural due process of law was violated because she was not provided with certain visitation reports until trial. While supplying the reports would have been preferable, no reversible error occurred here because mother had no legal right to visitation and no standing to appear at any legal proceeding concerning the children. Minn. Stat. ß 260.241, subd. 1; see J.M., 574 N.W.2d at 722 (explaining that while parents no longer have legal right to contact children after termination of parental rights, district court may allow parent-child contact pending adoption).
Affirmed.[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.