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In re Welfare of S.C.

February 18, 2003

IN THE MATTER OF THE WELFARE OF THE CHILDREN OF S.C., N/K/A S.O.


Le Sueur County District Court File No. J80150024

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Willis, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Minn. R. Juv. P. 81.02 (d) requires that a motion to vacate a final order or judgment in proceedings involving the termination of parental rights, on the ground that the judgment is void, must be brought within 90 days after filing of the order.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Toussaint, Chief Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

Appellant S.O. challenges the district court's denial of her motion to vacate the May 8, 2001, order and judgment terminating her parental rights to M.N. and W.H. Appellant alleges that the order and judgment are void due to ineffective service. Because appellant did not file her motion to vacate the judgment within the 90 days required by Minn. R. Juv. P. 81.02, we affirm.

FACTS

This action involves appellant S.O. and two of her minor children: M.N. and W.H. In July 1999, LeSueur County filed a children-in-need-of-protective-services (CHIPS) petition on behalf of M.N., W.H., and a third child, alleging that the children needed protective services because (1) their parents' emotional, mental, or physical disability, or state of immaturity, left the children without proper care; and (2) the children's behavior, condition, or environment was injurious or dangerous to themselves or others. This appeal does not involve the status of the third child.

In October 1999, S.O. was hospitalized. She left the hospital against medical advice. S.O. attended the CHIPS hearing on November 10, 1999 and denied the petition. P.H., the father of W.H., was awarded temporary custody of W.H. The maternal grandfather of M.N. was initially awarded custody, but did not assume that custody; M.N. was actually placed in foster care. S.O. was to receive supervised visitation with the children.*fn1

In November 1999, S.O. was again hospitalized. She was discharged with specific recommendations, including individual therapy and medication monitoring, but failed to attend the scheduled appointments.

S.O. also refused to commit to the out-of-home placement plan (the plan). When Sally Schroer, the child protection worker responsible for S.O.'s case, met with her in February 2000 to review the plan, S.O. refused to sign it without her attorney, even though she and her attorney had received copies of the plan before the meeting. Eventually, she signed the plan, but then, despite ample notice, failed to attend the mandatory administrative meeting to formally review the plan. According to Schroer, S.O. "made minimal efforts to comply with the plan." She also failed to maintain a permanent residence, to attend school meetings to review M.N.'s testing and individual education plan, and to return paperwork required for M.N. to receive services at his school.

S.O. missed her first scheduled visits. When she again missed three consecutive visits in June 2000, the county discontinued visitation. S.O.'s whereabouts after the last visit in early May 2000 were unknown. On September 1, 2000, therapist Dr. Kari Van Duesen recommended that M.N. be permanently placed with a relative or in a permanent foster home, and not returned to S.O.

In January 2001, Schroer, on behalf of LeSueur County, filed a petition to terminate S.O.'s parental rights to M.N. and W.H. S.O. did not appear at the hearing on that petition held in February 2001, but her attorney appeared on her behalf. He indicated that he had been unable to contact S.O. Although counsel believed that S.O. had been living in Ohio, his letter to her Ohio address was returned. Counsel indicated that an Apple Valley, Minnesota address on file was that of ...


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