Dept. of Human Services v. A. W. (A158694)

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Juvenile Law
  • Date Filed: 10-21-2015
  • Case #: A158694
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Garrett, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; & Lagesen, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

A parent’s failure to appear for a status conference does not equate with a parent’s failure to appear for a hearing for a termination of parental rights, and therefore a parent’s failure to appear for a status conference is not grounds for default judgment under ORS 419B.820(7).

Mother appealed the juvenile court’s judgment that terminated her parental rights to her daughter. The juvenile court found Mother in default for failure to appear in court on two separate occasions. Mother was scheduled to appear for a hearing to determine her parental rights on December 17, 2014. Mother failed to appear due to medical reasons. A status conference was scheduled for December 29, and Mother again failed to appear. The Department of Human Services (“DHS”) moved for summary determination to terminate parental rights—the juvenile court rescheduled a hearing on the motion for December 31. Mother failed to appear for this hearing, and the juvenile court determined that because of her failure to appear at the Dec. 29 and 31 hearings, Mother had defaulted on her case, and terminated Mother’s parental rights. On review, the Court determined that the juvenile court had plainly erred in its interpretation of ORS 419B.819(7) by terminating Mother’s parental rights for her failure to appear at a hearing because there was no evidence that she had actual notice of the Dec. 31 hearing. Further, the Court determined that the juvenile court erred by concluding that a default occurred because Mother had only failed to appear to one termination hearing, as the Dec. 29 meeting was a status conference, rather than a termination hearing—which is insufficient to sustain a default judgment. Because the juvenile court's error deprived Mother of fundamentally fair proceedings in terminating her parental rights, accordingly, the judgment was reversed and remanded.

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