In Re Guardianship of D.S.: The court vacated the guardianship order when it found the father’s parental deficiencies had been remedied.
By Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski, family lawyers
D.S. was born in September 2005. His mother is apparently not in the picture. He has lived off and on with his father, H.S. The state filed a dependency petition in 2010 with intent to reunify H S. and D.S. However, H.S. was deported in late 2010, returned to the United States in February 2011, and was deported again in late 2011. Since then, D.S. has lived with Randall Batchelor (his maternal grandfather) and Batchelor’s wife.
In Re Guardianship of D.S.: Guardianship Action as an Alternative to Father’s Rights
The state brought a guardianship action as an alternative to termination of the father’s parental rights. H.S. contested the petition. Ultimately, the trial court ordered guardianship because it was in D.S.’s best interests and because conditions could not be remedied so that D.S. could be returned to H.S. in the near future. H.S. has been clean and sober for the last two years, has taken advantage of all services, intends to continue to live in Mexico and has no plans to return to the United States. The state’s social worker and mental health counselor testified in support of the guardianship and in support of keeping D.S. in the Batchelor home.
To grant a guardianship petition, the court must find that there is little likelihood that conditions will be remedied so that the child can be returned to the parent in the near future. The “little likelihood” language parallels the required finding in termination proceedings. Without a parental deficiency, however, there is no condition to be remedied. When the trial court found that H.S.’s parental deficiencies had been remedied, there was no basis for granting the guardianship. The guardianship order was vacated and the case was remanded for reinstatement of the dependency.
Query: If the father has remedied all of his parental deficiencies, why would there need to be a dependency at all? Why wouldn’t the dependency proceedings be dismissed and custody be placed with the father?
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.
Pennsylvania’s new custody law encourages parents to ensure their children have regular contact with other parents and step-parents as a part of their children’s best interests.