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In re M.R.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

September 17, 2015

Interest of M.R., a Child Betsey Johnson, L.S.W., Petitioner and Appellee
v.
S.R., V.G., G.L., and John Doe, Respondents G.L., Appellant

Page 176

Appeal from the Juvenile Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Susan J. Solheim, Judicial Referee.

Pam H. Ormand, Assistant State's Attorney, Fargo, ND, for petitioner and appellee.

Mark T. Blumer, Fargo, ND, for appellant.

Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J.

OPINION

Page 177

Carol Ronning Kapsner, Justice.

[¶1] G.L. appeals from a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights. He argues the juvenile court erred by declaring him in default, finding the conditions and causes of the child's deprivation were likely to continue, and determining the Indian Child Welfare Act (" ICWA" ) did not apply. We affirm the juvenile court's order.

I

[¶2] M.R., the child at issue, was placed in the custody of social services due to concerns that her mother was unfit to care for her. After the child was placed into custody, a social services employee petitioned for termination of parental rights. The petition stated that paternity had not been confirmed, but it noted an individual named V.G. could be the father. It was subsequently established that V.G. was not the father. G.L. then came forward claiming to be the father, but his paternity was never confirmed by biological testing. At a hearing on the petition, M.R.'s mother appeared and stated she

Page 178

desired to voluntarily relinquish her parental rights.

[¶3] In an interim order, the juvenile court noted ICWA may apply because G.L. was a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe. The juvenile court then sent notices of the right to intervene to the tribe. In response, Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services sent a letter stating that, after reviewing the case, the tribal court and the ICWA director " would support the current Termination of Parental Rights in order to establish permanency for [M.R.]." Noting G.L. had refused paternity testing, the tribe indicated it would not intervene unless there was biological proof G.L. was M.R.'s father.

[¶4] At the hearing on termination of parental rights, G.L.'s counsel was present, but G.L. failed to appear. His counsel requested a continuance so G.L. could be present; the court denied the motion. G.L.'s attorney told the court he had recently learned that G.L. was incarcerated in Polk County, Minnesota. The court then took a recess to allow G.L.'s attorney to contact G.L. to determine whether he could appear by telephone. After the recess, G.L.'s attorney informed the court that he chose not to attempt to contact G.L. ...


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