The Court of Appeals has released an opinion upholding the termination of parental rights under section 19 of the Juvenile Code, MCL 712A.19b(3)(h) in the context of a divorce. There was no separate neglect / abuse action pending. See Steelman v Steelman, [unpublished opinion July 14, 2005] Docket Numbers 250090 and 252294, a case arising in Wayne County. In Steelman, plaintiff-mother had filed an amended complaint for divorce and termination of parental rights. Although the Judgment of Divorce reserved the issues of parenting time and termination of parental rights, the parties later waived further proceedings and so the termination came within the divorce proceedings. Grounds to support the termination of parental rights were
Defendant-father's imprisonment (a ten-year term on federal charges involving conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and money laundering).
His failure to establish a bond with the children. Defendant-father had left the family when the youngest child was one month old and had seen the children only four times after this abandonment;
Defendant-father’s drug and alcohol problems;
His domestic violence against his wife witnessed by the older child;
His non-support after he abandoned the family;
The fact that he did not try to resume contact with the children until after plaintiff-mother filed an amended complaint seeking to terminate his parental rights; and
The children's need for a safe, stable, loving home, which defendant could not provide, supported termination of parental rights.
The defendant's earliest "out-date" is in 2008.
The trial court appointed an expert to evaluate the family members and to view the proposed federal prison visiting facilities. The expert was able to evaluate the plaintiff-mother and her mother with whom she and the children lived. He also interviewed the children and defendant-father. According to the Court of Appeals, the expert's efforts to evaluate the father, to view him with the children, and to see the visitor facilities were frustrated by the federal prison.
Plaintiff-mother was awarded almost 100% of the parties’ marital property. This property award was upheld by the COA because of defendant’s conduct, plaintiff-mother’s need for income to support herself and the parties’ children, and also because of plaintiff-mother’s contributions in managing the business during defendant’s incarceration. The Court of Appeals did reverse an award of six cemetery plots because plaintiff had not requested them, had asked that they be awarded to defendant, and because defendant’s family had plots nearby.
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