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In re Welfare of D.L.D.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 8, 2015

In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of: D. L. D. and M. E. F., Parents

As Corrected June 23, 2015.

Page 316

Pipestone County District Court File No. 59-JV-14-33.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

A juvenile court may find that a child cannot safely return home even though the factual bases for the conditions preventing the child's return home are not identical to the factual bases for the conditions that led to the child's out-of-home placement.

For D.L.D., Appellant: Steven R. Forrest, Hedeen, Hughes & Wetering, Worthington, Minnesota.

For M.E.F., Respondent: Benjamin Denton, Pipestone, Minnesota.

For Pipestone County, Respondent: Damain Sandy, Pipestone County Attorney, Pipestone, Minnesota.

For Guardian ad Litem: Carol Morgan, Luverne, Minnesota.

Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.

OPINION

Page 317

SCHELLHAS, Judge

Appellant seeks reversal of a permanency disposition order transferring permanent legal and physical custody of her child to respondent, the child's father. We affirm.

FACTS

On July 14, 2008, appellant D.L.D. (mother) gave birth to K.D.D.F. Respondent M.E.F. (father) is the adjudicated father of K.D.D.F. A district court granted mother sole legal and physical custody of K.D.D.F. and, in March 2009, granted father reasonable and liberal parenting time with K.D.D.F. In November 2012, the court granted mother and father joint legal and physical custody of K.D.D.F., with mother's home serving as the child's principal residence.

In March 2014, police executed a search warrant at mother's home, where they found approximately 24 grams of marijuana and numerous prescription medications. The State of Minnesota charged mother with three counts of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime (sale of marijuana).[1] Respondent Pipestone County, through Southwest Health & Human Services (SWHHS), petitioned the juvenile court to adjudicate K.D.D.F. as a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS).[2] Following an emergency protective care hearing, the juvenile court placed K.D.D.F. with father, subject to protective supervision by SWHHS, and mother stipulated to the juvenile court's CHIPS adjudication of K.D.D.F. as a child whose environment was such as to be injurious or dangerous to her.

In August 2014, father petitioned the juvenile court for a transfer of permanent legal and physical custody of K.D.D.F. to him (permanency petition). Mother denied the allegations of the permanency petition and moved to dismiss the permanency petition for failure to state a prima facie case for transfer of permanent custody. The court ruled that the petition did not state a prima facie case and granted father leave to file an amended petition. A court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) for K.D.D.F. filed an informal report, father filed an amended permanency petition, and mother again moved to dismiss for failure to state a prima facie case. The court denied mother's motion to dismiss the amended permanency petition and held an adjudicatory hearing in October 2014. The court heard testimony and argument, received exhibits, and took judicial notice of relevant case files, including the case file for the CHIPS matter (CHIPS file). The GAL filed a second informal report

Page 318

following the hearing, and the court granted father's amended petition, transferring permanent legal and physical custody of K.D.D.F. to father (TLC order).

This appeal follows.

ISSUES

I. Did the juvenile court err by denying mother's motion to dismiss the amended permanency petition?

II. Did the juvenile court err by transferring permanent legal and physical custody of K.D.D.F. to father?

ANALYSIS

" The paramount consideration in all juvenile protection proceedings is the health, safety, and best interests of the child." Minn. Stat. § 260C.001, subd. 2(a) (2014). " The laws relating to the juvenile protection proceedings shall be liberally construed to carry out these purposes." Id., subd. 4 (2014). A child " whose . . . environment is such as to be injurious or dangerous to the child" is a " [c]hild in need of protection or services." Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 6 (2014). " If the court finds that the child is in need of protection or services . . . , it shall enter an order making a[] . . . disposition[] of the case . . . ." Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 1(a) (2014). One permissible disposition is to " place the child under the protective supervision of the responsible social services agency . . . in the home of a parent of the child under conditions prescribed by the court directed to the correction of the child's need for protection or services." Id., subd. 1(a)(1).

" A permanency or termination of parental rights petition must be filed at or prior to the time the child has been . . . in the care of a . . . nonresident parent for 11 months . . . ." Minn. Stat. § 260C.505(a) (2014).

At the conclusion of the permanency proceedings, the court shall:
(1) order the child returned to the care of the parent . . . from whom the child was removed; or
(2) order a permanency disposition under section 260C.515 or termination of parental rights . . . if a permanency disposition order or termination of parental ...

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