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In re K.L.

Supreme Court of Montana

May 28, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF: K.L., A Youth in Need of Care.

          Submitted on Briefs: May 8, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. DDN 16-028(a) Honorable Gregory G. Pinski, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Julie Brown, Montana Legal Justice, PLLC, Missoula, Montana.

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F. Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana.

          Joshua A. Racki, Cascade County Attorney, Valerie Winfield, Deputy County Attorney, Great Falls, Montana

          OPINION

          INGRID GUSTAFSON JUSTICE.

         ¶1 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 Montana Reports.

         ¶2 R.L. (Father) appeals the Cascade County District Court's June 22, 2018 Order terminating his parental rights to his child K.L. (Child). We affirm.

         ¶3 On February 4, 2016, the Department of Child and Family Services (Department) filed a petition for temporary investigative authority (TIA) regarding the Child. At that time, Mother was homeless, Father was in Prerelease, and Child was seven years old and had lived most of his life with his grandmother. Child is an Indian Child. Father, through counsel, stipulated to TIA. In July 2016, Father advised CPS Bass he intended to relinquish his parental rights to Child. At the August 12, 2016 review hearing, the Department indicated it would be filing a petition to adjudicate Child as a Youth in Need of Care (YINC) and Father, through counsel, indicated he intended to stipulate to the forthcoming petition.

         ¶4 Initially, the Department considered Father a non-offending parent and believed he would be able to parent upon his discharge from prerelease. At the adjudication hearing on November 4, 2016, however, CPS Bass testified that upon Father's release from prerelease, she advised him there was no legal reason Child could not be placed with him. Father declined to have Child placed in his care as he was struggling with sobriety and stability and his wife did not desire Child to be in their home. Child was adjudicated a YINC on November 4, 2016, and the Department was granted temporary legal custody (TLC) for a period of six months. Thereafter, Father did not engage with the Department until February 2017.

         ¶5 In February 2017, Father requested a visit with Child. Following the visit, Father again stopped communication with the Department and did not follow through on additional visits. In April 2017, Father again contacted the Department to reinitiate visitation. CPS Bass expressed concern regarding Father's prior inconsistency and lack of commitment. As Father admitted he continued to struggle with sobriety and stability, the Department developed a treatment plan for Father. On June 9, 2017, Father stipulated to extension of TLC and to his proposed treatment plan.

         ¶6 In September 2017, Father advised CPS Bass he intended to leave the state, but then contacted CPS Bass in October 2017 to advise he wanted to attend treatment. In response, CPS Bass set a meeting with Father, but he did not show up to the meeting as he was incarcerated in tribal jail in Browning, where he remained until April 2018.

         ¶7 On February 6, 2018, the Department filed a petition to terminate Father's parental rights for failure to complete his treatment plan and abandonment. Shortly before the termination hearing set for April 16, 2018, Father sought a continuance to provide him an opportunity to participate in the District Court's drug treatment court. The District Court continued the termination hearing to June 20, 2018, and Father was released to go to Cascade County. Thereafter, Father did not participate in drug court as he was re-arrested and charged with felony assault and misdemeanor partner or family member assault.

         ¶8 Following the June 20, 2018 termination hearing, the District Court terminated Father's parental rights. Father appeals asserting only that the Department failed to provide ...


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