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158854 - In re IM Long, Minor

In re IM Long, Minor,

 

 

_____________________________

 

 

 

 

 

Petitioner-Appellant Guardian,

 

Keri Middleditch Wygod

 

(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)

 

v

(Oakland, Matis, J.)

 

 

 

 

Respondent-Appellee Father,

 

Nancy Miller


 

 

 

 

 

Summary

The minor child was placed under a guardianship with his maternal grandmother when he was a few months old.  When the child was nearly five years old, the guardian petitioned to terminate the parental rights of respondent father, who was imprisoned. At that time, the identity of the child’s father was undetermined, but during proceedings on the petition, respondent was determined to be the child’s biological father in September 2017. Respondent moved to dismiss the proceedings, arguing that jurisdiction was improper under MCL 712A.2(b)(2) because there was no indication that the guardian’s home was an unfit place for the child to live, and improper under MCL 712A.2(b)(6) because he had only recently been declared the child’s legal father and had not been provided an opportunity to support and visit the child.  Thus, according to respondent, the two-year period of failure to visit and support the child, as required to establish jurisdiction under MCL 712A.2(b)(6), was not met.  The trial court held that it had jurisdiction under both MCL 712A.2(b)(2) and (6), and it terminated respondent’s parental rights.  In a published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order assuming jurisdiction over the child and, consequently, the termination of respondent’s parental rights.  The Court of Appeals held that respondent had no legal obligation to visit or support the child during the two years before the guardian filed the petition seeking termination of parental rights.  The Supreme Court has ordered oral argument on petitioner’s application for leave to appeal to address:  (1) whether the Court of Appeals clearly erred in reversing the trial court’s decision to exercise jurisdiction over the minor child pursuant to MCL 712A.2(b)(2), where the child was living with a guardian and there was no evidence that the guardian’s home was unfit, yet there was evidence that the respondent father is incarcerated and had a history of criminal conduct; (2) whether the Court of Appeals clearly erred in reversing the trial court’s additional decision to exercise jurisdiction over the minor child pursuant to MCL 712A.2(b)(6), based on respondent father’s conduct in the two years preceding the filing of the petition when he was a putative, not legal, father; and (3) whether the trial court’s reliance on In re LE, 278 Mich App 1 (2008), was misplaced. ​