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Judge Tiktin's Ruling

Judge Tiktin's Ruling

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Published by Caleb Hannan

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Published by: Caleb Hannan on Jul 27, 2011
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07/27/2011

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STEPHE'IN.TIKTIN,
PresidingJudge
CIRCUITCOURTOFOREGON
ELEVENTHJUDICIALDISTRICT
DESCHUTESCOUNTYJUSTICEBUILDING
BEND,OREGON97701(541)388-5300(Voice
&
TOO)
ALTA
J.
BRADY,
Judge
A.MICHAELADLER,
Judge
BARBARAA.HASLINGER,
Judge
MICHAEL
C.
SULLIVAN,
Judge
EDWARDL.PERKINS,
Judge
September20,2002SeanaMcMannAshAttorneyatLaw44NWIrvingBendOR07701JoelJ.KentAttorneyatLaw,225NWFranklin,SteCBendOR97701LiysaKing-NorthonSID#13948511
CCCF
OregonDepartmentofCorrectionsPOBox9000Wilsonville,OR97070MaxwellMerrillAttorneyatLaw1070NWBondSt,Ste303Bend,OR97701Re:NorthonandNorthonDeschutesCountyCaseNo.01DS0530STCounselandMs.King-Northon:Everyone,includingMs.Bell,agreesthatDaneshouldbeplacedwiththeKings.ThequestionsthatremainarewhethertheKingsshouldbegrantedcustody,ratherthanguardianship;conditionscontrollingMs.King-Northon'srelationshipwiththeKingsandcontactwithDane;andwhetherthecourtshouldordercontactbetweenDaneandtheNorthonsandDaneandtheStorys.TherelevantstatuteisORS109.119.Allparties,includingMs.King-Northon,concededthata"child-parentrelationship"existsbetweentheKingsandDane.See,ORS109.119(8)(a).Thecourtacceptstheconcessions,agreesthattheevidencesupportstheconcessionsandfindsthatDaneandtheKingshavetherequisite"child-parentrelationship"toallowthecourttoaward
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-------------------
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custodyorguardianshiptotheKings.ORS109.119(3)(a)alsorequiresthatthepresumptionthatthe"legalparent"actsinthebestinterestofthechildberebuttedbeforethecourtgrantscustodyorguardianship.Ms.King-Northonconcedesthenecessityofatleastasemi-permanentplacementofDanewiththeKings.Shearguesforaguardianshiplargelybecausethatwouldbeeasiertoterminateifherconvictionisreversedoraftersheisparoled.Wheremotheradmitstheexistenceofa"child-parentrelationship,"agreesthatplacementisnecessaryandsupportstheplacement,itisnotclearthatthereisanyneedforspecificrebuttalfindings.ORS109.119(3)(a)seemstograntthecourttheauthoritytodeterminewhichtypeofplacementisinthebestinterestofthechild,oncetheneedforacourtorderedplacementhasbeenestablished.AssumingthatthecourtmuststillfindthatMs.King-NorthondoesnotactinthebestinterestofDanebecausesheobjectstothe
type
ofplacement,thecourtmakesthefollowingfindingsafterconsideringthefactorssetoutinORS109.119(4)(b):1.MotherisunabletocareforDane.2.TheKingshavebeenandareDane'sprimarycaretakers.3.Motherhasfostered,encouragedandconsentedtotherelationshipbetweentheKingsandDane.4.MotherhasbeenconvictedofkillingDane'sfather,anactthatdeprivedDaneofthecareof
both
ofhisparents.5.Underhercurrentsentence,motherwillbeincarceratedforapproximatelytenyears.6.Obviously,itwillbedetrimentaltoDaneif
some
reliefisnotgranted.Additionally,theCourtfindsthatitwillbedetrimentaltoDaneiftheKingsarenotawardedcustody.Thisyoungboyhasexperiencedthehorrificcircumstancesoflosingbothofhisparents,onetohomicideatthehandsoftheother.Henowneedsthemaximumdegreeofstabilityandpermanencywhichcanbestbeachievedbygrantingcustody,ratherthanguardianship,totheKings.TofosterstabilityforDane,theKingsneedthedegreeofauthorityandcontroloverDane'slifetomakethesmall,daytodaydecisionsandthelarger,moreconsequentialdecisionsthatparentswouldhavewithoutdelayoruncertaintyaboutwhoisincharge.TofosterDane'ssenseofpermanency,theKingsandDaneneedthekindoflegalrelationshipthatcannoteasilybeundone,readilychallengedorcontinuallyreviewed.TheKingswillraiseDaneformost,ifnotall,ofhisyouth.Theywillbehis"parents."TheyandDaneneedtheattributesofcustody.TheCourtfindsthatatleastwithregardtothetypeofplacement,motherdoesnotactinthebestinterestofDaneandthatitisinDane'sbestinterestthattheKingsbeawardedcustodyofDane.Clearly,theKingsarethebestchoiceandanexcellent,virtuallyidealplacementforDane.DanefitswellintotheirfamilywherehehasastrongrelationshipwithhisbrotherAukia,theKing'syoungson,Beau,andtheKingsthemselves.Ofalltheparties,onlytheKingsareuntouchedbyaccusationsandinnuendos.Theyhaveremovedthemselvesfromtheanimosityandnegativityofthelastseveralyears.Theyaloneseemtohavemadealldecisionsbasedonlyonwhatisin
(\
"..._,:D,~~._.~.,-"""
 
Dane'sbestinterest.TheyhavehadthemostinsightandunderstandingintowhatisrightforDane.TheyobtainedcounselingforDaneandhavebeenguidedbytheadviceofDane'scounselor,Dr.Rutter,indecisionmaking.
It
appearstheywilldosointhefuture.GrantingcustodytotheKingswillmaximizeDane'sopportunitiesforahealthyandproductiveyouthandlife.Inanefforttosettlethecase,theKingsagreedtoallowspecificminimumcourtorderedvisitationbetweenDaneandhispaternalgrandparents,theNorthons,andbetweenDaneandtheStorys.Motherobjects.ThereforethecourtmustanalyzetheissuepursuanttoORS109.119whichisalsotherelevantstatuteregardingvisitation.TheCourtfirstfindsthatboththeNorthonsandtheStoryshavean"ongoingrelationship"withDane.See,ORS109.119(8)(e).ThecourtfurtherfindsthattheserelationshipsareimportanttoDane.Next,beforethecourt
orders
visitation,underORS109.119(3)(b),thecourtmustdeterminewhetherthepresumptionin109.119(2)(a)hasbeenrebutted,i.e.whetherithasbeenprovenbyclearandconvincingevidencethatthe
"legal
parent"doesnotactinthebestinterestsofthechild.Throughoutthetrial,itwasassumedthatMs.King-Northonwasthe"legalparent."Mr.Kentalsosuggestedthatalthoughthefather,ChrisNorthon,wasdeceased,thecourtshouldtrytodeterminewhathewouldhavewantedandfashionamandatoryvisitationorderconsistentwiththatconcept.Thestatutedoesnotdefine"legalparent."Thecourtbelievesthetermmustmeanmorethana"biologicalparent"ora"custodialparent"ortherewouldbenoreasontousetheword"legal."Fromthecontextinwhichthetermisused,itwouldappearthattheKings,whohavebeenawardedcustodyofDane,arethe"legalparents."ORS109.119(4)(a)(D)directsthecourttoconsiderwhethergrantingvisitationwouldsubstantiallyinterferewiththecustodialrelationship.Thecourtmustalsoevaluatewhether"[tjhelegalparenthasunreasonablydeniedorlimitedcontactbetweenthechildandthepetitionerorintervenor."ORS109.119(4)(a)(E).
In
thiscase,itistheKingswhowillhavethecustodialrelationshipandwhowillhavethepowertoallowordenycontact.TheNorthons,StorysandMs.King-NorthonhaveproducednoevidencethattheKingsdonotactinDane'sbestinterest.TheKingssupportcontactbetweentheStorys,theNorthonsandDane.Theywerewillingtohavesuchcontactmadeapartofthecourt'sorder.Theyunderstandthenatureandvalueoftheserelationshipsandboththepositiveandnegativeeffectsofthesecontacts.TheKingsunderstandtheimportanceofsupportingthememoryofDane'sfatherandtherelationshipwithDane'smotherandtheharmfromexposingDanetonegativityaboutordemonizationofeitherparent.TheKing'srecognizetheneedforstabilityinDane'slife.Theywerethefirsttorecognizetheneedforcounseling,theimportanceofDane'stherapeuticrelationshipwithDr.RutterandtheimportanceofDr.Rutter'sopinioninmakingdecisionsforDane.Ultimately,whatisinDane'sbestsinterestneednotbedeterminedbypre-trialeffortsatcompromise,howevermeritoriousthoseeffortstobringpeaceandresolutionwere.ForthesamereasonsthattheKingsaretheidealplacementandthattheyshouldbeawardedcustody,notjust

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