Juvenile Law

 Editor:
Shawn R. McCarver, Esquire 

Mother's attorney in TPR case is not ineffective where counsel advocated for exactly what Mother wanted - a chance to voluntarily terminate her rights.  Counsel did so by explaining Mother's absence and by advocating for Mother to get the court to hold the record open so Mother could submit a consent form.  In the Interest of V.J.B., S.H.B., A.G.B., K.C.V. and C.A.V., No. 30561, 30562, 30563, 30564 and 30565 (Mo. App. S.D., December 20, 2010), Francis, Jr., J.
Petitions were filed to terminate parental rights.  At trial, Mother's counsel reported that he had spoken with Mother, that she was unable to secure transportation and that she wished to consent to termination of her parental rights.  Counsel suggested that evidence be heard, but that the record be left open so counsel could obtain Mother's consents.  Exhibits and testimony were offered without objection.  When the case was reconvened, Mother had still not consented to termination.  Her counsel announced that he had spoken with Mother and that she was not going to appear.  After TPR was granted, Mother appealed.
Mother alleged that she had not been provided effective assistance of counsel.
Held: Affirmed.  Mother's attorney did exactly as Mother had requested.  He advocated to preserve the opportunity for Mother to voluntarily terminate her rights.  Mother's indifference to maintaining her parental rights was evident in her failure to appear and her expressed desire to have her rights terminated.  Mother should not be heard to complain about her counsel when counsel explained her absence and advocated for her desire to voluntarily terminate her rights.

The Missouri Bar Courts Bulletin, 11-Mar