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A Better Partnership
May 27, 2016

COA holds that there can be statutory grounds for termination of parental rights because of abuse even if the parent has not been criminally convicted of that abuse

The Michigan Court of Appeals held in In re Schadler, minors, No. 327977 that parental rights may be terminated because the parent abused the child in violation of MCL 712A.19b(3) (k)(ii), even if the parent was never criminally convicted of the abuse. 
 
The trial court in Schadler ordered the respondent’s parental rights for his two minor children (CS and BS) terminated. MCL 712A.19b(3) (k)(ii) allows for the termination of parental rights if a parent causes abuse by criminal sexual conduct to the child or the sibling of the child. The trial court found that the respondent violated MCL 712A.19b(3) (k)(ii) with respect to his minor child CS by sexually abusing her. The respondent was also found to have violated MCL 712A.19b(3) (k)(ii) with respect to child BS, because BS the is the sibling of the abused child (CS).
 
The court is required to terminate a respondent’s parental rights if: (1) a single statutory ground for termination has been established by clear and convincing evidence, and (2) it has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence that termination of parental rights are in the best interests of the child. MCL 712A.19b(3) and (5). At trial it was shown by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent in Schadler violated MCL 712A.19b(3)(k)(ii) by abusing minor child CS by criminal sexual conduct. The court also determined by a preponderance of the evidence that it was in the best interests of both children if the respondent’s parental rights were terminated.
 
The respondent argued that because he had not been criminally convicted of criminal sexual conduct, he could not have violated MCL 712A.19b(3)(k)(ii). However, that statute does not require criminal conviction, only proof by clear and convincing evidence that the criminal sexual conduct occurred. The testimony of CS and BS at trial, in addition to testimony from a forensic interviewer and therapist, was sufficient to meet this burden. The Court of Appeals further held that, based on the respondent’s sexual abuse of CS and aggressive discipline of BS, the trial court could have reasonably found that termination of parental rights was in the best interests of the children. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order terminating the parental rights of respondent for both children.

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