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In re Adoption of A. C. C.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

July 31, 2013

In the Matter of the Adoption of A. C. C., a Child.
v.
J. B. C., Respondent. T. S. R.; and J. K. R., fka J. K. S., Appellants, J. B. C., Petitioner-Respondent, and STATE OF OREGON, by and through the Department of Human Services, Petitioner below,
v.
J. S., aka J. R.; and T. R., Respondents-Appellants.

Argued and submitted on May 08, 2013.

Baker County Circuit Court 02700, 12002CF Garry L. Reynolds, Judge.

Rebecca J. Knapp argued the cause for appellants. With her on the briefs was Hostetter Knapp, LLP.

George W. Kelly argued the cause and filed the brief for respondent.

Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Nakamoto, Judge, and Egan, Judge.

EGAN, J.

Mother and stepfather appeal a supplemental judgment modifying a prior custody judgment and a general judgment denying their petition for stepfather to adopt child. They assign error to the trial court's modification of the custody judgment, contending that there was insufficient evidence in the record for the trial court to conclude that it was in child's best interests to allow father parenting time. They further assign error to the trial court's denial of the adoption petition. We affirm.

The undisputed facts are as follows. When child was born, mother and father were living together, but they never married. Shortly after child's birth, mother moved, and child continued to live principally with father for the following two years. Thereafter, father filed a filiation proceeding seeking joint custody of child, and the court entered a judgment that granted mother custody and father supervised parenting time once a week. The court's decision to limit father's parenting time was based on its findings that, while under the care and supervision of father, child learned to use obscenities and expressed anger in excess of that of a boy of his age. The court also found that father had anger problems; that, while child was in potty training, father made child hold feces in his hands if child had an accident; and that, in general, father was not as concerned about child's safety as mother was. The judgment, among other things, required father to take parenting classes, undergo a psychological evaluation, and pay child support.

Approximately seven months after the judgment was entered, mother filed a motion to terminate father's parenting time. The court granted the motion, terminating father's parenting time until he provided proof that he had complied with the judgment's requirements that he undergo a psychological evaluation and pay child support.

Father eventually completed multiple parenting classes and underwent a psychological evaluation, which concluded that he met the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder. Despite satisfying those requirements of the custody judgment, father did not contact mother or child for almost two years following the termination of his parenting time. He then petitioned for parenting time, but that petition was denied.

Following the denial, over five years passed without father contacting mother or child. During that time, father married a woman who had a daughter from a previous relationship, and father and his wife eventually had a son. Father once again moved to modify the custody judgment to grant father parenting time. Additionally, father's attorney sent a letter to mother's attorney requesting parenting time. Shortly thereafter, mother and stepfather petitioned to terminate father's parental rights and to permit stepfather to adopt child without father's consent. Father opposed the petition for adoption. The court consolidated the modification proceeding and the adoption proceeding and held a hearing.

At the hearing, father presented evidence about his parenting of his stepdaughter and his younger son that demonstrated his involvement in their lives and his ability to parent them. Based on that testimony, the trial court found that father has a healthy relationship with his stepdaughter and younger son.

Father also submitted evidence that he had undergone a second psychological evaluation, which concluded that the symptoms of his narcissistic personality disorder were in remission and that there was nothing to suggest that father had anger control or aggression issues. However, the doctor who evaluated father specifically noted that he could not give an opinion regarding child's safety with father because he had not had the opportunity to gather sufficient information to make that assessment.

Mother testified that, after she told child about father's desire to have parenting time, she observed changes in child's behavior, including increased signs of sadness and anger. In response to those behavioral changes, child began to see a therapist, Wright, who diagnosed child as having adjustment disorder with anxiety caused by father's request for parenting time. Wright testified that child had had an anxiety attack while thinking about being forced to see father and that child had expressed experiencing a large amount of worry about spending time with father. Child repeatedly told Wright that he did not want to see father. When Wright asked him what he would do if he were forced ...


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