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In re A.L.E.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 6, 2018

In the Interest of A.L.E., a child Grand Forks County Social Service Center, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
A.L.E., Child, A.A.A., Father, Respondents and A.E., Mother, Respondent and Appellant

          Appeal from the Juvenile Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lolita G. Hartl Romanick, Judge.

          Jacqueline A. Gaddie, Assistant State's Attorney and Jackson Pasco, third-year law student, under the Rule on Limited Practice of Law by Law Students, Grand Forks, ND, for petitioner and appellee; submitted on brief.

          Darla J. Schuman, Grand Forks, ND, for respondent and appellant A.E.; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          JENSEN, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] A.E., the mother of A.L.E., appeals from a judgment terminating her parental rights. Because the juvenile court correctly applied the law, the record contains evidence to support the juvenile court's decision, and we are not left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made, we affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] A.E. and A.A. are the biological parents of A.L.E., who was born in September 2015. The record, in summary, reveals that A.E. has struggled with substance abuse before and after A.L.E.'s birth. Her substance abuse has resulted in multiple periods of incarceration. Her substance abuse has required, at the time of the hearing, that A.L.E. be in foster care and in the custody of Social Services for 707 days of the days since her birth in 2015. A.E.'s drug usage has also adversely affected A.L.E.'s health.

         [¶ 3] A.A. did not participate in the termination proceedings and has not appealed. A.E. has appealed and challenges the juvenile court's determination that A.L.E. is deprived and the determination that the causes of the deprivation are likely to continue. A.E. also asserts that reasonable efforts were not made to reunify her with A.L.E.

         II

         [¶ 4] Section 27-20-44(1)(c)(1), N.D.C.C., authorizes a juvenile court to terminate parental rights if a "child is a deprived child and the court finds... [t]he conditions and causes of the deprivation are likely to continue or will not be remedied and that by reason thereof the child is suffering or will probably suffer serious physical, mental, moral, or emotional harm[.]" These elements must be established by clear and convincing evidence. See Matter of C.D.G.E., 2017 ND 13, ¶ 4, 889 N.W.2d 863. We apply the clearly erroneous standard of review to the juvenile court's findings. See Interest of A.B., 2017 ND 178, ¶ 12, 898 N.W.2d 676. Under the clearly erroneous standard of review, we affirm the decision of the juvenile court unless it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if there is no evidence to support it, or if, on the entire record, we are left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made. Id.

         A

         [¶ 5] A.E. argues the juvenile court erred in finding A.L.E. is deprived. A deprived child is defined in N.D.C.C. § 27-20-02(8)(a) as one who is "without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for the child's physical, mental, or emotional health, or morals, and the deprivation is not due primarily to the lack of financial means of the child's parents, guardian, or other custodian[.]"

         [¶ 6] Prenatal exposure to any controlled substance is a ground for a finding of deprivation. See N.D.C.C. § 27-20-02(8)(f). A.E. used marijuana throughout her pregnancy, and A.L.E. tested positive for marijuana at birth. Deprivation can also be shown if the child is present in an environment of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia. See N.D.C.C. ยง 27-20-02(8)(g). A probation search of A.E.'s home when she was the primary caregiver of A.L.E. resulted in the discovery of methamphetamine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. This evidence supports the juvenile court's finding that there was clear and convincing evidence A.L.E. was a deprived child. The juvenile court did not ...


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