Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re G.M.G.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

August 8, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF: G.M.G.;
v.
T.R.E., Appellant. JUVENILE OFFICER, Respondent,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County, Missouri The Honorable Mason R. Gebhardt, Judge

          Before: James Edward Welsh, Presiding Judge, Lisa White Hardwick, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge

          GARY D. WITT, JUDGE.

         T.R.E. ("Mother") appeals from the judgment of the Circuit Court of Randolph County terminating her parental rights to minor child, G.M.G., finding that, pursuant to section 211.447.5(1), [1] Mother had abandoned G.M.G. and, pursuant to section 211.447.5(3), Mother had failed to rectify the harmful conditions that prevent G.M.G.'s proper care. Mother argues that the trial court erred in issuing its judgment because Mother was not represented by an attorney at all points in the underlying neglect proceedings pursuant to section 211.211. We find that the court did not plainly err in failing to appoint an attorney to Mother for all underlying neglect proceedings. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History [2]

         Mother gave birth to G.M.G. on July 7, 2004. Allegations arose that Mother was unable to control G.M.G.'s behavior, and he was without proper care, custody, and support. On August 23, 2012, Mother requested, in writing, that G.M.G. be placed in the temporary custody of the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children's Division ("Division"). Mother alleged that if G.M.G. were returned to her care and custody he posed a risk to himself as well as everyone in the home. A neglect case was opened, and a protective custody hearing for G.M.G. was held on August 24, 2012. At the hearing, Mother orally waived her right to counsel and filed a written waiver of appointment. The court determined that it was in the best interest of G.M.G. to be placed into the temporary custody and placement with the Division. An adjudication hearing was scheduled for October 2, 2012. The day before the adjudication hearing, October 1, Mother filed a request for the appointment of an attorney but, at the hearing, she waived her right to counsel. The Division assumed legal and physical custody of G.M.G. on October 2, 2012, but counsel was appointed to Mother for the dispensation hearing set for November 6, 2012. At the dispensation hearing, however, Mother's counsel appointment was rescinded by the court due to concerns that counsel was improperly appointed and had a possible conflict. The dispensation hearing was held without counsel for Mother.

         Mother again requested that the trial court appoint counsel on March 19, 2013. At that time, the trial court denied Mother's motion, finding that "mother can have a full and fair hearing at this stage absent counsel. Natural mother may hire counsel if she wishes." Mother moved again for appointment of counsel on July 19, 2013, but the court again denied her motion finding "mother requested to communicate with child's GAL [guardian ad litem] and CASA [court appointed special advocates] worker to help them assist with the stated goal of reunification. Should the goal be changed to termination, the court will reconsider natural mother's request for counsel." Based on subsequent actions by Mother, the stated goal was changed from reunification to termination on January 21, 2014. However, the court approved trial home placement of G.M.G. with Mother on February 27, 2015. The placement was cancelled on July 7, 2015.

         Mother next moved for appointment of counsel on September 29, 2015, and on September 30, 2015, the court granted her motion and appointed counsel. Mother was continuously represented by counsel through final placement of G.M.G. and the conclusion of this cause of action, 12RA-JU00092.

         A new cause of action was brought, again in Randolph County, for the termination of Mother's parental rights of G.M.G. on May 19, 2016, cause number 16RA-JU0059. Mother was continuously represented by counsel in the new action, which culminated in the termination of her parental rights. The trial court terminated Mother's rights on September 27, 2016. The trial court found that, pursuant to sections 211.447.5(1), Mother had abandoned G.M.G. and, pursuant to 211.447.5(3), she had failed to rectify the harmful conditions that prevented G.M.G.'s proper care. This appeal followed.

         Standard of Review

Our review of this decision is in accordance with Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). The trial court's judgment will be affirmed unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. In re Adoption of C.M.B.R., 332 S.W.3d 793, 815 (Mo. banc 2011) (citation omitted). The judgment will be reversed only if this court is left with a firm belief that the order is wrong. Id. Evidence is reviewed in light most favorable to the trial court's decision, and this court defers to the trial court's credibility determinations. Id. The same standard of review applies in all types of court-tried cases regardless of the burden of proof at trial. Ivie v. Smith, 439 S.W.3d 189, 199 (Mo. banc[sic] 2014). However, the termination of parental rights is an exercise of awesome power and strict and literal compliance with the statutory language is demanded. In re Baby Girl W., 728 S.W.2d 545, 547 (Mo. App. W.D. 1987). "The party seeking to invoke the statute must carry the full burden of proof." Id. (citation omitted).

In the Interest of G.E.R. v. B.R., 441 S.W.3d 190, 195 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014). "Termination of parental rights is an exercise of 'awesome power, ' and therefore we review such cases closely." In re C.F. & A.K., 340 S.W.3d 296, 298 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011) (citation omitted).

         Discussion

         Mother's sole point on appeal is that the trial court erred in terminating her parental rights because she did not receive court-appointed counsel to which she was entitled under section 211.211. Mother does not dispute the trial court's findings that grounds ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.