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A Better Partnership
September 25, 2014

COA holds that appointment of a juvenile guardian does not violate due process

In the case of In re Sturm, No. 316944, the Court of Appeals held that a mother’s parental rights were not terminated, nor her right to due process violated, when the trial court placed her daughter, TK, with a juvenile guardian under MCL 712.19a(7)(c). The mother opposed the guardianship, arguing that the trial court should have returned TK to her or continued with long-term foster care.
 
Respondent is the mother of sixteen year-old TK. TK’s biological father’s parental rights were terminated in 2011, after he was found guilty of repeatedly sexually abusing TK. Then, one of respondent’s other children began “acting out sexually” towards TK. TK was placed in a foster home during the subsequent proceedings and reportedly flourished. TK requested that there be no visitation time with respondent. After a permanency planning hearing, the trial court appointed a juvenile guardian, which respondent appealed.
 
Respondent argued that the guardianship constituted a de facto termination of her parental rights under MCL 712.19a(7)(c), in violation of due process when petitioner failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence a statutory ground for termination. The Court found that no clear and convincing evidence for termination was required because under the statute, a guardianship does not permanently sever the parent/child relationship.In fact, guardians are appointed to avoid termination of parental rights. The Court concluded that respondent was afforded due process and that the juvenile guardianship “statutory scheme employs multiple safeguards to ensure that there is not an erroneous deprivation of a parent’s liberty interest in caring for his or her child.” Finally, the Court found that the trial court did not clearly err in concluding that reasonable efforts had been made towards reunification nor abuse its discretion by appointing the guardian.

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