State of Utah, in the interest of H.F., a person under eighteen years of age.
E.F., Appellee. J.F., Appellant,
District Juvenile Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable
Julie V. Lund No. 1100472
L. Wiggins and Lisa Lokken, Attorneys for Appellant
P. Eldredge, Attorney for Appellee
Pierce, Guardian ad Litem
Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in
which Judges Jill M. Pohlman and Diana Hagen concurred.
CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE.
J.F. (Mother) appeals from the juvenile court's
termination of her parental rights to H.F. (Child). We
reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Child was born in December 2012. Soon after Child's
birth, Mother discovered that her husband, E.F. (Father), had
been using drugs. Suffering from postpartum depression,
Mother also began using drugs with Father as a means of
In March 2014, the Division of Child and Family Services
(DCFS) removed Child from Mother and Father's home as a
result of their drug use. Upon removal, DCFS placed Child
with Mother's parents (Grandparents). During this time,
Grandparents facilitated visitation between Child and Father,
as well as Father's extended family.
Soon after Child was removed from the parents' home,
Mother began a relationship with "a really bad
guy." She left Utah with him, and they began committing
crimes together. Eventually, the pair were arrested,
convicted of multiple crimes, and incarcerated.
Conversely, Father began participating in drug treatment in
June 2014. After completing treatment, he became involved in
various peer support groups to help others with drug
addiction and even obtained a full-time job as a peer
recovery coach for a nonprofit addiction-recovery agency. In
March 2015, Father filed for divorce from Mother and was
granted a default divorce awarding him full legal and
physical custody of Child. In May 2015, upon the State's
motion, the juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction and
DCFS involvement. After Father regained custody of Child,
Grandparents continued to provide regular daycare for Child.
In July 2016, Father moved the juvenile court to terminate
Mother's parental rights. Father was engaged to be
married, and his fiancée (Fiancée) wanted to
adopt Child, but they had not yet set a wedding date and were
not yet living together. Grandparents "had a heated
conversation with" Father about his termination
petition, and subsequently, he put Child in full-time daycare
and did not permit Grandparents to see Child as often.
At Mother's termination trial in December 2017, her
former criminal attorney expressed his belief that
Mother's criminal actions had been "very much
influenced by" her co-defendant but that she "was a
model defendant"; continually showed concern for her
family and a desire to take care of her
children; had come to understand, through
participation in counseling, her responsibilities and the
detrimental effects of her co-dependent relationship with her
co-defendant; and ultimately told the truth about the
criminal incidents even though her co-defendant was damaged
by her admissions. Mother was still incarcerated at the time
of the termination trial but was due to be released in April
2019. She had been participating in a voluntary
drug-treatment program. She testified that prior to
Child's removal, she was his "sole care
provider." She testified that she has a bond with Child,
that she has had regular telephone and video calls with him
since losing custody and sends him letters, that Child had
expressed his desire to be reunited with Mother, and that she
wants to have "visitation as much as possible" and
to "be in ...