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Without Clear and Convincing Evidence, Parental Rights will not be Terminated

In determining parental rights, the State of Nevada ascribes to the doctrine of “what’s in the best interest of the child.” Therefore, when a petition to terminate parental rights is filed, the burden of proof is on the petitioner to present clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the child’s best interest and that parental fault exists.

In IN RE: the Parental Rights as to C.C.A., a Minor. Charles C.L.A. v. The State of Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, Department of Health and Human Resources; and C.C.A., a minor child was removed from the care of his biological father and subsequently placed in the legal custody of the State of Nevada, Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). DCFS eventually petitioned the district court to terminate the biological father’s parental rights. After a bench trial, both sides submitted their closing arguments in writing, after which the district court entered a summary order terminating the biological father’s parental rights.

The termination order stated the biological father’s parental rights were terminated because he …

1. abandoned the minor child by not providing support or communicating with the child;
2. did not provide proper parental care;
3. was an unfit parent;
4. had not corrected the circumstances, conduct, and conditions which led to the removal of the minor child;
5. would be a physical, mental, or emotional risk to the child if the child were in his custody; and 6. had only made token efforts to avoid creating the above circumstances and conditions.
No evidence or explanation was attached to the order. The biological father appealed.

It is well-settled that termination proceedings implicate a parent’s fundamental rights in the care and custody of his or her child. NRS 128.005(1) and (2); Matter of Parental Rights as to D.R.H., 120 Nev. 422, 426-27, 92 P.3d 1230, 1233 (2004); Matter of Parental Rights as to C.J.M., 118 Nev. 724, 732, 58 P.3d 188, 194 (2002). To guard the rights of the parent and the child, the Nevada Legislature created a statutory scheme intended to assure that parental rights are not erroneously terminated, and that the child’s needs are protected, unless there is clear and convincing evidence. NRS 128.005(1) and (2)
The district court deferred ruling on the termination petition until it received the parties’ written closing arguments. Thus, the court did not make any oral findings on the record. The subsequent written termination order does not reference any specific facts or evidence presented by the parties during the bench trial, just the statutory grounds required to terminate a parent’s parental rights. Without a record of clear and convincing evidence, the biological father’s parental rights cannot be terminated. The district court decision is reversed, and the case remanded back to the district court to enter its findings on the record. IN RE: the Parental Rights as to C.C.A., a Minor. Charles C.L.A. v. The State of Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, Department of Health and Human Resources; and C.C.A., No. 56723, S. Ct. Nev. (April 05, 2012)
Las Vegas Family Law Attorney Andre Lagomarsino focuses on family law, employment law, and Fair Labor Standards Act cases in Las Vegas and the state of Nevada. If you need sophisticated legal advice, contact Lagomarsino Law, immediately.

The Las Vegas law office of Lagomarsino Law did not represent anyone involved in the above-referenced case. The commentary is for educational and commentary purposes only. If you would like to be represented by a Nevada attorney, contact our office for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400.