IN THE MATTER OF: K.F. and T.F. IV, Youths in Need of Care.
Submitted on Briefs: August 1, 2018.
FROM: District Court of the Second Judicial District, In and
For the County of Silver Bow, Cause No. DN 15-79 Honorable
Brad Newman, Presiding Judge.
Appellant Kelly M. Driscoll, Montana Legal Justice, PLLC,
Appellee Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F.
Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana.
Joyce, Silver Bow County Attorney, Mark Vucurovich, Special
Deputy County Attorney, Butte, Montana.
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
T.F. III (Father) appeals the Silver Bow County District
Court's January 5, 2018, Orders terminating his parental
rights to his children (Children) K.F. (born in 2010), and
T.F. IV (born in 2006). Although a separate cause number was
assigned for each child's case, proceedings occurred
simultaneously in the District Court with shared factual
information and procedural histories. We consolidated these
two cases for purposes of appeal. Father has also appealed
the termination of his parental rights to half sibling P.F.
in DA 18-0057 who, unlike K.F. and T.F. IV, may be an Indian
child. A separate opinion is being issued in P.F.'s case
to address the potential Indian Child Welfare Act issues not
present here. We affirm.
On September 11, 2015, the Child and Family Services Division
of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
(Department) filed a Petition for Emergency Protective
Services (EPS), Adjudication of Child as Youth in Need of
Care (YINC), and Temporary Legal Custody (TLC) regarding the
Children due to concerns of domestic violence, drug use,
Father absconding from conditional release, and inappropriate
people in the home with the children. K.F. and T.F. IV's
mother is deceased. Half-sibling P.F.'s mother, C.F.,
married Father in September 2014. Upon removal, the Children
were initially placed with paternal grandparents, then with
Father's girlfriend Emily, then in the Watson
Children's Shelter in Missoula.
At hearing October 21, 2015, Father stipulated to the court
adjudicating the Children as YINC and granting the Department
TLC for six months. TLC was extended several times and the
last TLC order was granted on September 11, 2017. On November
17, 2015, the District Court approved Father's first
Treatment Plan. On September 13, 2016, the Department filed a
second Treatment Plan for Father which provided separate
requirements if Father was incarcerated. On October 10, 2017,
the Department petitioned to terminate Father's parental
rights to Children based on § 41-3-609(1)(f), MCA,
citing his failure to complete a treatment plan and asserting
he was unlikely to change within a reasonable time.
On October 26, 2017, Father filed a motion to continue the
hearing set for November 1, 2017, as his criminal trial was
set for January 22, 2018, and he had yet to receive
discovery. On October 30, 2017, the court ordered that the
November 1, 2017 hearing be reset to December 6, 2017, to
allow for completion of discovery. The court declined to
delay trial based on Father's pending criminal matter:
The father's counsel seeks a continuance to January 24,
2018, following the father's trial . . . on an apparent
criminal charge(s). A delay of approximately three months is
unnecessary in this case, as disposition of the State's
petition to terminate parental rights is not dependent on the
outcome of a separate criminal proceeding in another
Discovery was hand-delivered to Father's counsel on
November 14, 2017.
At the termination hearing on December 6, 2017, Father
presented exhibits to support his progress on his treatment
plan. On January 5, 2018, the District Court issued orders
for each child terminating Father's parental rights for
failure to complete his treatment plan and finding the
conduct or condition rendering him unfit or unable to parent
was not likely to change within a reasonable period of time.
The orders found that "throughout the majority of ...