Terminating Parental Rights in Utah

Parental Rights

IN THE INTEREST OF B.C., A PERSON UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE. C.S., Appellant, v. R.C., Appellee., 2016 UT App 208

C.S. (Mother) appealed the order terminating her parental rights in B.C. But in order to overturn the juvenile court’s decision, the result must be against the clear weight of the evidence or leave the appellate court with a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made. When a foundation for the court’s decision exists in the evidence, an appellate court may not engage in a reweighing of the evidence.

The juvenile court found several grounds to support termination the Mother’s parental rights. Under Utah Code section 78A-6-507, the finding of a single ground will support termination of parental rights. Mother abandoned B.C., neglected B.C., was an unfit or incompetent parent, and made only token efforts to support or communicate with B.C. Thus, it was in the child’s best interest for the parental rights to be terminated.

The first claim Mother raised on appeal was that the juvenile court erred in failing to allow her to admit evidence, including her exhibit book. A claim is not preserved for appeal if a party initially objects but later abandons the objection and stipulates to the court’s intended action. Counsel and the parties reached a stipulation regarding the admission of the majority of Mother’s exhibits, and Mother did not preserve any objection to failure to admit any additional evidence. Therefore, she did not preserve any claim on appeal regarding the refusal to admit evidence.


Parental Rights are very important in UtahThe second claim Mother raised on appeal was that the juvenile court erred in stating that she abandoned B.C. The court discussed that Utah law requires a court to make two distinct findings before terminating a parent-child relationship: (1) the court must find that the parent is below some minimum threshold of fitness, such as a finding that a parent is unfit or incompetent based on any of the grounds for termination in section 78A-6-507, and (2) the court must find that the best interests and welfare of the child are served by terminating the parent’s parental rights. Mother did not challenge the best interest finding, but she did claim that the juvenile court erred in finding that she abandoned B.C. This challenge does not change the outcome on appeal because she did not challenge any of the remaining grounds relied upon by the juvenile court in its decision (neglect, unfitness, or token efforts). Any of those unchallenged grounds were sufficient to support the juvenile court’s decision for termination of parental rights. Thus, this court did not need to review her claim that the evidence was insufficient to support the grounds of abandonment.

This court affirmed the juvenile court’s order terminating Mother’s parental rights.

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