In re G. B
Argued September 18, 2014.
Under New Hampshire procedural rule this decision is subject to motion for rehearing, as well as formal revision before publication in the New Hampshire Reports.
9th Circuit Court - Merrimack Family Division.
Valerie C. Raudonis, of Nashua, by brief and orally, for the petitioners.
Lucinda Hopkins, of Manchester, by brief and orally, for the respondent.
HICKS, J. DALIANIS, C.J., and CONBOY, LYNN, and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.
The respondent, G. B., II (father), appeals an order of the Circuit Court ( Stephen, J.) terminating his parental rights over his son, G. B., III (child). We affirm.
The following facts were found by the trial court or are supported by the record. In September 2008, the father was arrested after making arrangements with an undercover state trooper to pay to have the child's mother, Michelle H., murdered. The father pleaded guilty to a class A felony indictment for criminal solicitation to commit murder as principal and/or accomplice. See RSA 629:2 (2007), 626:8 (2007). He is currently serving an eight-to-twenty year prison sentence, with an early release date of August 16, 2016.
On September 2, 2009, Michelle H. died. It appears that at that point, guardianship over the child was granted to either his maternal grandfather, or both of his maternal grandparents, although no certificate of appointment appears in the record.
In February 2012, the petitioners, Robert H. and his wife Carolyn H., petitioned for guardianship over the child. The record indicates that Robert is Michelle H.'s cousin. In their ex parte motion to grant their petition for guardianship, the petitioners alleged that the child's grandfather had been hospitalized after suffering a massive heart attack and was unable to care for the child. They also alleged that the child's grandmother was unable to care for him due to " her own medical problems and limitations." The petitioners were appointed temporary guardians on February 15, 2012. According to the report of the guardian ad litem (GAL) in this case, the child's grandfather died in February 2012 and his grandmother died in July of that year; in the meantime, in March 2012, the petitioners were appointed permanent guardians.
On or about July 13, 2012, the petitioners filed a petition against the father for termination of parental rights (TPR) over the child on grounds of abandonment; failure to support, educate or care for the child; and conviction of attempt or solicitation to murder Michelle H. See RSA 170-C:5, I, II, VII(c) (2014). The petitioners alleged that they wished to adopt the child.
The trial court terminated the father's parental rights on grounds of attempt to commit murder and failure to support, educate and care for the child. The father appeals, arguing that: (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to terminate his parental rights; (2) the petitioners did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the father failed to support the child despite being financially able to do so; (3) the evidence did not support termination of the father's parental rights on the ground of abandonment; and (4) termination of the father's parental rights was not in the child's best interest when it was contrary to his deceased mother's wishes and was not necessary for the child's welfare.
" A court may not order the termination of parental rights unless the petitioning party proves a statutory ground for termination beyond a reasonable doubt." In re Deven O., 165 N.H. 685, 689, 82 A.3d 229 (2013). " We will not disturb a trial court's finding that a ground for termination has been proved unless it is unsupported by the evidence or plainly erroneous as a matter of law." Id. at 693. " After the court finds statutory grounds for termination, it must further consider whether termination is in the [child's] best interest." In re Zachary G., 159 N.H. 146, ...