In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of: T. W., Parent
Nicollet County District Court File No. 52-JV-12-168
Thomas K. Hagen, Anthony Jeffrey Larson, Rosengren Kohlmeyer Law Office, Mankato, Minnesota (for appellant T.W.).
Meghan M. Maes, Mankato, Minnesota (for respondent D.B.).
Michelle M. Zehnder Fischer, Nicollet County Attorney, St. Peter, Minnesota (for respondent county).
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Chief Judge; and Toussaint, Judge.
Appellant, imprisoned until 2041 for the murder of his minor child's mother, challenges the termination of his parental rights, arguing that the district court (1) abused its discretion by concluding that he was a palpably unfit parent and (2) violated his procedural due-process rights by terminating his parental rights on a ground not pleaded in the termination petition. We affirm.
T.W. contends that the district court abused its discretion by terminating his parental rights after determining that he was a palpably unfit parent. Parental rights may only be terminated "for grave and weighty reasons." In re Welfare of Child of W.L.P., 678 N.W.2d 703, 709 (Minn.App. 2004). A district court may involuntarily terminate parental rights when clear and convincing evidence supports a statutory basis for termination. Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 39.04, subd. 1; see also Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (2012) (listing grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights). Only one statutory basis is required to support termination. In re Welfare of Children of R.W., 678 N.W.2d 49, 55 (Minn. 2004). The district court must make its decision based on evidence concerning the "conditions that exist at the time of termination and it must appear that the conditions giving rise to the termination will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period." In re Welfare of P.R.L., 622 N.W.2d 538, 543 (Minn. 2001). Whether termination meets the child's best interests is the paramount consideration. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7 (2012). Finally, a district court cannot terminate parental rights unless it also finds that social-service agencies made reasonable efforts to reunify the parent and child. Id., subd. 8(1) (2012).
On appeal, we examine whether the district court's findings address the statutory criteria for termination and determine whether the district court's findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence. In re Welfare of Children of K.S.F., 823 N.W.2d 656, 663-65 (Minn.App. 2012). The district court's ultimate determination that the statutory requirements for termination were established by clear and convincing evidence is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. See In re Welfare of Children of J.R.B., 805 N.W.2d 895, 900-01, 905 (Minn.App. 2011), review denied (Minn. Jan. 6, 2012).
Respondent D.B. petitioned the district court to terminate appellant T.W.'s parental rights to E.W., his only minor child. It is undisputed that T.W. pleaded guilty to murdering E.W.'s mother and will remain imprisoned until at least 2041, when E.W. will be 32 years old. The district court, after hearing argument on D.B.'s petition and relying on the testimony of E.W.'s therapist, determined that T.W. was palpably unfit to parent E.W. and terminated T.W.'s parental rights, explaining:
[T]he father is incarcerated until [E.W] will be 32 years of age, assuming he is even granted parole, and is completely unable to be a father to [E.W.]. [E.W.] does not know him. [E.W.] would gain nothing by the father's parental rights being maintained and in fact loses by ...