In Re Welfare of R. H.: The Court of Appeals said the juvenile court abused discretion by refusing the father’s motion to continue the termination trial.
By Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski, family lawyers
Bobby Adolphus was the father of three sons. The boys had been removed along with three half-siblings in 2009 from the mother’s home. Dependency proceedings were initiated and agreed orders of dependency were entered in 2009. In 2011, DSHS petitioned for the termination of Adolphus’s parental rights. The trial was scheduled for May 2012. A month before trial, Adolphus moved to continue the termination hearing to allow DSHS to complete a home study on the paternal aunt, who had been identified as a potential guardianship placement for the children. The state resisted the motion for continuance, and the juvenile court denied the request. At trial, the juvenile court granted DSHS’s petition to terminate Adolphus’s parental rights. An accelerated appeal followed.
In Re Welfare of R. H.: The Court of Appeals said the Juvenile Court Abused Discretion
The Court of Appeals concluded that the juvenile court had abused its discretion by refusing to grant the father’s motion to continue the termination trial. The court pointed out that the “more flexible alternative to parental termination, guardianship under RCW 13.36.040” had been created in 2010. Holding that the new guardianship statute was material to the potential termination of parental rights, and specifically that the availability of a guardianship placement was material to the element of the child’s prospects for early integration into a stable and permanent home, the court reversed and remanded for trial.
In a separate ruling, the court sanctioned Aldolphus’s appellate attorney for asserting in her brief and on the record that there was no evidence that the children felt unsafe with their father. Even after being challenged during oral argument that there was evidence in the record that the children felt unsafe with their father, the attorney maintained that the children’s expressed fears were simply the attorney’s arguments and not evidence. The court found the attorney’s behavior to be unprofessional and accordingly sanctioned her.
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.