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Parental Right Termination

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Case:  In Re Mattie L.

Facts:  Mother petitioned to terminate Father’s parental rights. Father was arrested shortly before the trial and did not appear. The trial court held a trial without Father and held two grounds for termination had been proven by clear and convincing evidence: abandonment by willful failure to visit and abandonment by willful failure to support. The court based its analysis in part on the missing witness rule and the doctrine of unclean hands.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court reversed, holding that neither the missing witness rule nor the doctrine of unclean hands was applicable and that their application was fundamentally unfair to Father. The court further held that the evidence of the two grounds for terminating Father’s parental rights was less than clear and convincing.

Review Granted:  August 11, 2020.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the Supreme Court will also rule in favor of the Father for the reasons stated by the intermediate court. The issues regarding abandonment and failure to support overlap with issues raised in another case recently granted review, In Re Neveah M., so it is possible the Supreme Court will issue a joint decision in these cases.