State of Utah, in the interest of J.M. and C.M., persons under eighteen years of age.
State of Utah, Appellee. C.M., Appellant,
District Juvenile Court, American Fork Department The
Honorable Suchada P. Bazzelle No. 1090383
D. Petersen and Eva Marie Brady, Attorneys for Appellant
D. Reyes, Carol L.C. Verdoia, and John M. Peterson, Attorneys
Pierce, Guardian ad Litem
Judges David N. Mortensen, Jill M. Pohlman, and Diana Hagen.
C.M. (Father) appeals from the juvenile court's order
terminating his parental rights. Father argues that there was
insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court's
determination that grounds existed to support the
"[I]n order to overturn the juvenile court's
decision [to terminate a person's parental rights, ]
'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.'"
In re B.R., 2007 UT 82, ¶ 12, 171 P.3d 435
(citation omitted). We "review the juvenile court's
factual findings based upon the clearly erroneous
standard." In re E.R., 2001 UT App 66, ¶
11, 21 P.3d 680. A finding of fact is clearly erroneous only
when, in light of the evidence supporting the finding, it is
against the clear weight of the evidence. See id.
Further, we give the juvenile court a "wide latitude of
discretion as to the judgments arrived at based upon not only
the court's opportunity to judge credibility firsthand,
but also based on the juvenile court judges' special
training, experience and interest in this field."
Id. (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). Finally, "[w]hen a foundation for the
court's decision exists in the evidence, an appellate
court may not engage in a reweighing of the evidence."
In re B.R., 2007 UT 82, ¶ 12.
Father argues that there was insufficient evidence to
demonstrate grounds supporting termination of his parental
rights. The juvenile court based its termination decision on
several grounds, including that Father made only token
efforts to visit the children and to resolve many of the
issues that resulted in the children being removed from
Father's custody. See Utah Code Ann. §
78A-6-507(1)(f) (LexisNexis 2012). Evidence in the record
supports the juvenile court's findings and determination
that Father made only token efforts to visit and communicate
with the children, to prevent the neglect of the children,
and to avoid being an unfit parent.
For example, regarding Father's visitation and
communication with the children, Father failed to attend
several visits with the children, and between January 1 and
March 31, 2017, Father visited the children only one time.
The court found that Father failed to present any legitimate
or believable excuse for missing so many visits. Further, the
Division of Child and Family Services offered to provide
Father with extra visitation time and the mother offered to
give her visitation time to Father. Father did not avail
himself of either opportunity. Thus, the juvenile court's
determination that Father made only token efforts to
communicate with and visit his children is supported by the
Father also made only token efforts to resolve the drug
issues that resulted in the removal of the children from his
custody. Father's service plan required him to submit to
random drug tests. However, he submitted only a few samples
during the time reunification services were being offered,
and he failed to submit to any drug tests in the six months
prior to the termination proceeding. Father also delayed
completing a class recommended by his substance abuse
assessment, and failed to provide proof of its completion
until the day of trial. Father's minimal efforts made it
impossible for the juvenile court to determine if Father
maintained the sobriety necessary to care for his children.
In making its determination that Father made only token
efforts, the juvenile court also noted Father's failure
to demonstrate the self-awareness of his own conduct and
behavior that resulted in the children being in the
State's custody. Specifically, the juvenile court made
the following finding:
Since the children were removed from [Father], he has become
extremely difficult and has complained about everyone. He has
also taken little to no ownership as to his contribution to
the children going into care, but has blamed everyone else.
The father has provided multiple reasons for why he has put
things off in completing the child and family plan. The Court
does not find these excuses to be credible.
Father's failure to resolve his issues with drugs and to
accept responsibility for how his own actions and behavior
affected his children resulted in Father making only token
efforts to cure those issues. In so doing, he made only token
efforts to ...