In re A.P.-M.

Decision Date14 August 2018
Docket NumberNO. 4-18-0208,4-18-0208
Parties IN RE A.P.-M., A.P., A.M., and S.J., Minors (In re A.M., a Minor (The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Angel P., Respondent-Appellant)).
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Adele M. Saaf, of Bloomington, for appellant.

Jason Chambers, State’s Attorney, of Bloomington (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and James Ryan Williams, of State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Angel P., respondent, is the mother of S.J. (born April 28, 2003), A.M. (born April 15, 2008), A.P. (born November 25, 2013), and A.P.-M. (born April 7, 2015). (We note that this case is titled In re A.P.-M. and bears the trial court No. 16-JA-7. However, this appeal concerns respondent's parental rights over A.M. initiated as 16-JA-9.) In June 2016, the trial court vested custody and guardianship of S.J. in his father and made A.M., A.P., and A.P.-M. wards of the court and vested guardianship of these children with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) with the goal to return the children to respondent's care within 12 months.

¶ 2 In December 2016, the State filed a petition to terminate respondent's parental rights. In February 2017, the trial court found that respondent was an unfit parent. In May 2017, the court terminated respondent's parental rights as to S.J., A.P., and A.P.-M. However, because the court wanted to give A.M.'s father more time to comply with service plans, the court did not terminate respondent's parental rights as to A.M. The court changed A.M.'s permanency goal to return home to her father within 12 months. In August 2017, DCFS stopped providing reunification services to respondent. Respondent's lawyer did not object. In February 2018, the trial court conducted a second best-interest hearing and terminated respondent's parental rights as to A.M.

¶ 3 Respondent appeals, arguing (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the second order terminating her parental rights as to A.M., (2) she was denied due process when DCFS stopped providing her reunification services, and (3) trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. We disagree and affirm.

¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND
¶ 5 A. The Adjudication of Wardship

¶ 6 Respondent is the mother of S.J., A.M., A.P., and A.P.-M. In February 2016, the State filed a petition for adjudication of wardship, alleging that respondent's four children were neglected because respondent had (1) anger-management issues and (2) alcohol-abuse issues creating an environment that was injurious to their welfare. 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2016). In March 2016, the trial court held an adjudicatory hearing. The court adjudicated the children as neglected minors because respondent stipulated that she had alcohol-abuse issues. Id.

¶ 7 In June 2016, the trial court vested custody and guardianship of S.J. to S.J.'s father. The court made A.M., A.P., and A.P.-M. wards of the court and vested guardianship with DCFS. The court stated that its goal was to return the children to respondent's care within 12 months. In July 2016, A.M.'s paternal grandmother and stepgrandfather became A.M.'s foster parents.

¶ 8 B. The Trial Court's Fitness Determination

¶ 9 In December 2016, the State filed a petition to terminate respondent's parental rights, alleging that she (1) failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility as to the minor's welfare and (2) failed to make reasonable progress toward the goal of returning her children home. 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(l ), (D)(m)(ii) (West 2016). In February 2017, the trial court found respondent to be an unfit parent after respondent conceded that she failed to make reasonable progress toward the goal of returning her children home. Id. § 1(D)(m)(ii).

¶ 10 C. The First Best-Interest Hearing

¶ 11 In May 2017, the trial court conducted the best-interest portion of the termination hearing. A police officer testified about a March 2017 incident where respondent, who appeared to be intoxicated, was arrested. Respondent's domestic-violence counselor testified that respondent relapsed multiple times and appeared in court under the influence of alcohol. A DCFS caseworker testified that A.M. had been successfully living with her grandmother and stepgrandfather since July 2016. A.M.'s father testified that he was a forklift operator, that he loved A.M. very much, and that he had been sober since January 2016.

¶ 12 The trial court terminated respondent's parental rights as to S.J., A.P., and A.P.-M. However, the court declined to terminate A.M.'s father's parental rights, concluding that he "deserves a chance to be able to demonstrate [his] sobriety." Because the court concluded that it was not currently in A.M.'s best interest to terminate her father's parental rights, the court noted that "I don't really see the point of terminating mom's rights at this point in time as to [A.M.]."

¶ 13 That same day, the trial court entered a revised permanency order. 705 ILCS 405/2-28(2) (West 2016). In the written order, the court concluded that the mother was not making reasonable efforts or reasonable progress toward returning A.M. home. The court further concluded that the "mother is not a return home option." The court changed A.M.'s permanency goal to returning to her father within 12 months.

¶ 14 D. The Updated Service Plan

¶ 15 In August 2017, DCFS updated its family service plan. In the plan, DCFS stated that "[A.M.'s] return home goal is specifically to return home to her father. DCFS is not ordered to provide [respondent] with services at this time. [Respondent] has had little involvement in this case since her rights were terminated on the other children." Accordingly, DCFS stopped providing reunification services to respondent. Respondent's trial counsel did not object to the termination of reunification services at the next permanency hearing.

¶ 16 E. The Second Best-Interest Hearing

¶ 17 In February 2018, the trial court conducted a second best-interest hearing. At the hearing, A.M.'s father consented to A.M. being adopted by her foster parents. With the father consenting to adoption, the court addressed whether it was in the best interest of A.M. to terminate respondent's parental rights. After the presentation of evidence and argument, the court terminated respondent's parental rights over A.M., reasoning as follows:

"[W]hen we were here last May [at the first best-interest hearing], the reason I didn't terminate [respondent's parental] rights at that time is because I thought [A.M.'s father] * * * had the potential for being a return home [parent]. * * * But had it not been for [A.M.'s father] appearing to be a return-home parent, I would have terminated [respondent's] rights for the same reason I terminated the rights as to the other three children."

¶ 18 This appeal followed.

¶ 19 II. ANALYSIS

¶ 20 Respondent appeals, arguing (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the second order terminating her parental rights as to A.M., (2) she was denied due process when DCFS stopped providing her reunification services, and (3) trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. We address these issues in turn.

¶ 21 A. The Trial Court's Jurisdiction

¶ 22 Respondent argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the second order that terminated her parental rights as to A.M. We disagree.

¶ 23 1. The Applicable Law

¶ 24 A trial court is divested of jurisdiction over a matter when (1) 30 days have passed following the entry of a final and appealable order concerning that matter and (2) during that time, neither party has taken any legally proper action to extend the 30-day period. Leavell v. Department of Natural Resources , 397 Ill. App. 3d 937, 950, 337 Ill.Dec. 978, 991, 923 N.E.2d 829, 843 (2009). An order is final if it terminates the litigation between the parties on the merits and disposes of the rights of the parties so that if the order is affirmed, the trial court need only execute the order. MidFirst Bank v. McNeal , 2016 IL App (1st) 150465, ¶ 23, 402 Ill.Dec. 457, 52 N.E.3d 378. When determining whether an order is final, the ultimate issue is whether the order fully and finally disposes of the rights of the parties to the cause so that no material controverted issue remains to be determined. Id.

¶ 25 2. This Case

¶ 26 The May 2017 order was not a final order because it did not fully dispose of the rights of the parties. See id. Instead, this order only terminated respondent's parental rights as to S.J., A.P., and A.P.-M. The order had not conclusively determined whether A.M.'s father would have his parental rights terminated. Accordingly, because this was not a final order, the trial court had jurisdiction when it issued the February 2018 order that terminated respondent's parental rights. See Leavell , 397 Ill. App. 3d at 950, 337 Ill.Dec. 978, 923 N.E.2d 829.

¶ 27 B. Due Process

¶ 28 Respondent argues that DCFS denied her due process of law when it ended reunification services in August 2017. We disagree.

¶ 29 1. The Applicable Law

¶ 30 One of the fundamental rights protected by the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment is the right of a parent to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of her child without unwarranted state intrusion. In re D.T. , 2017 IL App (3d) 170120, ¶ 23, 415 Ill.Dec. 901, 83 N.E.3d 485 ; U.S. Const., amend. XIV. The State's interference with a parent's rights is justified in limited instances in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the child. D.T. , 2017 IL App (3d) 170120, ¶ 23, 415 Ill.Dec. 901, 83 N.E.3d 485. In the context of proceedings to terminate parental rights, due process is achieved when the State complies with the provisions of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Court Act) ( 705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq. (West 2016) ) and fundamental fairness....

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  • People v. A.M. (In re Interest of D.M.)
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • August 10, 2020
    ...action to seek a continuance, the ineffective assistance of counsel claim would fail for lack of a showing of prejudice. See In re A.P.-M. , 2018 IL App (4th) 180208, ¶ 44, 425 Ill.Dec. 68, 110 N.E.3d 1126.¶ 36 As the trial court in this case recognized, the Juvenile Court Act prioritizes t......
  • People v. Alex J. (In re Aai. J.)
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    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • December 16, 2020
    ...531, 693 N.E.2d 869, 873 (1998). "Failure to satisfy either prong precludes a finding of ineffective assistance of counsel." In re A.P.-M., 2018 IL App (4th) 180208, ¶ 41, 110 N.E.3d 1126.¶ 39 Here, even if respondent's trial counsel had presented testimony from the alleged witnesses and th......

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