Posted on September 9th, 2009 No comments
There were 10 termination of parental rights opinions from the Court of Appeals on the E-Journal this morning. All of them affirmed the termination. In In re Cooper, Respondent father argued that the trial court erred in failing to take action to ascertain his status as the child’s father, as a result of which he was deprived of his right to court-appointed counsel. The Court of Appeals found the trial court failed to comply with MCR 3.921(C) (presumably the notice requirements) after finding at the preliminary hearing probable cause to believe that respondent was the child’s putative father. However, they found he was not prejudiced by any error that may have occurred. Respondent was not entitled to counsel until he became a respondent by establishing paternity, and he did not take exception to the trial court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the child before paternity was established. After respondent established paternity, counsel was appointed to assist him, the termination hearing was adjourned to permit respondent to confer with counsel, and respondent was represented by counsel at the hearing. Under the circumstances, the Court held, any error was harmless.
The Court engages in a nice little discussion of when a parent is entitled to counsel:
A respondent in a child protective proceeding has a due process right to counsel. In re EP, 234 Mich App 582, 597-598; 595 NW2d 167 (1999), overruled on other grounds by In re Trejo, 462 Mich 341, 353 n 10; 612 NW2d 407 (2000). That right is also guaranteed by statute and court rule. MCL 712A.17c(5); MCR 3.915(B)(1). In child protective proceedings, a putative father, i.e., the alleged biological father of a child who does not have a legal father, is not a respondent. MCR 3.903(A)(7), (17), and (23); MCR 3.903(C)(10). Therefore, until respondent became a legal father by completing and filing an acknowledgement of parentage, MCR 3.903(A)(7)(e), he was not entitled to the appointment of counsel.
You can view or download the case here: In re Cooper