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[U] In re L.B.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 27, 2014

IN THE INTEREST OF: L.B. AND I.B., Appeal of: K.J.


Appeal from the Order Entered August 12, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County Orphans' Court No(s).: 6371




Appellant, K.J. ("Mother"), appeals from the order entered in the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas involuntarily terminating her parental rights to L.B. and I.B. Mother claims the evidence was insufficient to justify termination and that the trial court erred by concluding termination was in the children's best interests. We affirm.

We adopt the facts and procedural history set forth by the trial court. See Trial Ct. Op., 8/13/13, at 1-10. The docket[1] does not reflect compliance with Pa.R.C.P. 236(b), which states that "[t]he prothonotary shall note in the docket the giving of the notice, " for the entry of the August 13, 2013 opinion. On August 28, 2013, the court amended the conclusions of law set forth in the August 13th opinion. The docket, similarly, does not indicate the prothonotary complied with Pa.R.C.P. 236(b) for the August 28, 2013 order. On September 19, 2013, Mother filed a notice of appeal and a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a)(2)(i) statement.

As a prefatory matter, we address the timeliness of Mother's appeal. It appears that Mother's appeal is untimely as it was filed on September 19, 2013, more than thirty days after the original August 13, 2013 opinion. Because the docket lacks the required Rule 236(b) notice, however, "the appeal period has not yet been triggered . . . ." Vertical Resources, Inc. v. Bramlett, 837 A.2d 1193, 1199 (Pa.Super. 2003). We will, however, "regard as done what should have been done" and will hold that notice was mailed with respect to the August 28, 2013 amendment. See id. (noting, "it would be a waste of judicial resources to remand the matter solely for the filing of a Pa.R.Civ.P. 236 notice."). Accordingly, we deem Mother's appeal as timely filed. See id. (holding appeal was timely despite absence of required Rule 236 notice).

We therefore address Mother's issues on appeal:
Whether the court erred in determining that clear and convincing evidence showed that Mother had a settled purpose to relinquish a parental claim under 23 Pa.C.S. [§] 2511(A)(1), (2), (5), and (8) where Mother has remedied and continues to remedy the conditions that led to placement and maintained a parent-child relati[o]nship with her children.
Whether the court erred in [its] asses[s]ment as to whether a bond exists between the children and parent, whether termination would destroy an existing, necessary and beneficial relationship, and in giving adequate consideration to the needs and welfare of the child.

Mother's Brief at 7.

We summarize Mother's arguments for both of her issues. She contends the record did not affirmatively establish an intent to sever the parent-child relationship. In support, Mother notes that her attendance has improved for the prearranged visits with the children in question.[2] She maintains the record establishes no issues with her home environment. Mother also asserts that the record demonstrates a bond between her and the children. After careful consideration of the record, we discern no basis to grant relief to Mother.

The standard of review in termination of parental rights cases requires appellate courts to accept the findings of fact and credibility determinations of the trial court if they are supported by the record. If the factual findings are supported, appellate courts review to determine if the trial court made an error of law or abused its discretion. A decision may be reversed for an abuse of discretion only upon demonstration of manifest unreasonableness, partiality, prejudice, bias, or ill-will. The trial court's decision, however, should not be reversed merely because the record would support a different result. We have previously emphasized our deference to trial courts that often have first-hand observations of the parties spanning multiple hearings.

In re T.S.M., 71 A.3d 251, 267 (Pa. 2013) (punctuation and citations omitted). "While the trial court [may find that the movant] met its burden of proof under each [subsection of 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)], we need only agree with its decision as to any one subsection in order to affirm the termination of parental rights." In re B.L.W., 843 A.2d 380, 384 (Pa.Super. 2004) (en banc). "Only if the court determines that the parent's conduct warrants termination of his or her parental rights does the court engage in the second part of the analysis pursuant to Section 2511(b): determination of the needs and welfare of the child under the standard of best interests of the child." In re L.M., 923 A.2d 505, 511 (Pa.Super. 2007).

After careful review of the record, the parties' briefs, and the well-reasoned decision by the Honorable Joy Reynolds McCoy, we affirm based on the trial court's opinion.[3] See Trial Ct. Op., 8/13/13 (rendering extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law; holding, inter alia, (1) termination proper under § 2511(a)(1) because Mother, for six months prior to filing petition to terminate, failed to perform parental duties adequately, (2) § 2511(a)(2) termination justified by Mother's consistent incapacity and refusal to act, and (3) foundation for termination under subsections (5) and (8) established by continued existence of conditions that led to removal of children; and concluding, under 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(b), children's needs and welfare would be met by termination); see also In re L.M., 923 A.2d at 511; In re B.L.W., 843 A.2d at 384. Accordingly, because the record substantiates the trial court's factual findings and we discern no error of law or abuse of discretion, we affirm the order below, as amended on August 28, 2013. See In re T.S.M., 71 A.3d at 267.

Order affirmed.

Judgment Entered.

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