In re Conservatorship of Celeste T.

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In re Conservatorship of Celeste T.

Case Number
A-14-0736
Call Date
September 16, 2015
Case Time
1:30 PM
Case Summary

A-14-0736, In re Conservatorship of Celeste T., a child under 18 years of age.

Douglas County, County Court Judge Joseph P. Caniglia

Attorney for Appellant: Nathaniel V. Romano, Ellysa Gossar, and Kelly White (Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic)

Attorney for Appellee (Guardian Ad Litem): Diane B. Metz

Attorney for Appellee (father): Jay A. Ferguson

Civil: Guardianship

Action Taken by Trial Court: The trial court denied Appellant Melissa's request to terminate Kathie's guardianship over Melissa's daughter, Celeste.

Assignments of Error on Appeal: Whether the county court erred in (1) finding sufficient evidence to overcome the parental preference principle and not terminating the guardianship; (2) only applying a 'best interests' analysis; and (3) shifting the burden of proof to the mother to prove she was a fit parent.

Extended Case Summary (for Educational Purposes):
A-14-0736 In re Guardianship of Celeste T.

Douglas County, Honorable Joseph Caniglia

Attorneys: Diane B. Metz (for Kathie Joy, Guardian)--Jay A. Ferguson (for Darrell T., biological father)--Nathaniel V. Romana (Milton Abrahams Legal Clinic for Appellant Melissa U., biological mother)

Celeste (born in 2002) is the biological daughter of Melissa. Since shortly after her birth, Celeste has resided with her maternal grandmother Kathie. Melissa was a teenager when she gave birth to Celeste, and she and the child resided with Kathie for several years.

In 2005, Melissa agreed to allow Kathie to become Celeste's guardian. In 2009, Melissa moved out of Kathie's house and in with her boyfriend, Anthony. They have a child together. After moving out, Melissa had visitation with Celeste every other weekend, and every Wednesday. At some point, visitation increased to one full week at Melissa's house and one full week at Kathie's house. During the pendency of this case, the court formalized this arrangement.

In 2011, Melissa filed a petition to terminate the guardianship. At the trial on the matter, Melissa presented evidence to show that she is now in a stable relationship, has sufficient housing, employment, and a desire to parent Celeste full-time. Kathie, the guardian, presented evidence to show that Melissa has never provided Celeste with financial support, has lived with different men, and has moved back and forth between Kathie's home and her boyfriends'. She also presented evidence to show that Melissa does not pay rent, is not on the lease at her residence, does not own a vehicle, and does not have health insurance for Celeste. In addition, Celeste disclosed that Anthony's father inappropriately touched her while babysitting her and her younger half-brother and that Melissa did not believe her and allows Anthony's father to be present in the home with Celeste there. Celeste's father lives in Oregon and is in favor of keeping the guardianship in place as he believes Kathie allows him contact with Celeste, while Melissa does not.

The county court found that Melissa was unfit to parent her child, overcoming the parental preference principle, and denied Melissa's request to terminate Kathie's guardianship over Celeste.

On appeal, Melissa assigns that the county court erred in (1) finding sufficient evidence to overcome the parental preference principle and not terminating the guardianship; (2) only applying a 'best interests' analysis; and (3) shifting the burden of proof to the mother to prove she was a fit parent.

Case Location
Concordia University
Panel Text
Moore, Chief Judge, Pirtle and Bishop, Judges