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Civil, Family, and Administrative Appeals and Writs

In re Ashley D.

In this case, In re Ashley D. (unpub. July 9, 2012, F063686), Ms. Conrad's client was the father of a child who was under a guardianship with maternal relatives. The trial court denied the guardians' request to terminate parental rights under the Family Code and Probate Code section 1516.5 because the investigator concluded the child had a sufficiently strong relationship with her father that it would be detrimental to her if his parental rights were terminated. The appellate court found there was substantial evidence to support the trial court's findings and judgment because the father faithfully visited and called his child, made his child support payments, had recovered from his substance abuse problem, and acted in a stable and responsible manner during visits. Further, the child missed her father and did not want her visits to end.



John D. is the father of Ashley D., who was under a guardianship with petitioners Charles E. and Debra E. (guardians) since August 2007. Petitioners filed a petition on February 3, 2011 to declare Ashley free from John D.'s parental custody and control pursuant to Family Code sections 7823, 7824 and 7825. After a contested hearing, the court found that it would not be in Ashley's best interests for John D.'s parental rights to be terminated and to end Ashley's visitation with him. On appeal, petitioners contend the court committed reversible error when it failed to take into consideration detriment to Ashley when it denied their petition. We disagree and affirm the judgment.

The guardians contend that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to take into account Ashley's best interests in denying the petition to free her from her father's parental custody and control. The guardians also argue that the trial court failed to take into account the detriment to Ashley in denying their petition. We disagree.
Our review of the evidence in a section 1516.5 hearing is constrained. We review the record for substantial evidence to support the trial court's ruling. Under this standard, all conflicts in the evidence are resolved in favor of the prevailing party and all legitimate and reasonable inferences are indulged to uphold the judgment. It is the trial court's duty to determine whether the petitioners met their burden of proof and our duty to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support the trial court's findings. (In re Noreen G. (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 1359, 1382 (Noreen G.).)
The prerequisites to termination of parental rights under section 1516.5 are that after two years of a guardianship, parental rights can be terminated if it is in the child's best interest. The trial court must find that the child would benefit from being adopted by his or her guardian. Evidence of parental unfitness, or that terminating parental rights is the least detrimental alternative for the child, is not required in a section 1516.5 proceeding. In determining the best interests of the child, the trial court must consider all factors, including the circumstances leading to guardianship, the parent's efforts to maintain contact with the child, any exigencies that might hamper those efforts, and other evidence of commitment to parental responsibilities. (Noreen G., supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at p. 1383.) Appellate courts apply the abuse of discretion standard when considering a trial court's decision to terminate parental rights. (Id. at pp. 1382–1383; Adoption of Myah M. (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 1518, 1541–1542.)
Applying these principles to the case at bar, we find that there was substantial evidence in the record to support the trial court's findings and judgment. The guardians rely on the evidence showing that John D. had a substance abuse problem and did not meet Ashley's daily needs. The guardians ignore the evidence established through the testimony at the hearing, as well as from the investigator's report, that John D. regularly visited Ashley, called her, and made his child support payment. They also ignore the fact that John D. had recovered from his former substance abuse problem. John D. was acting in a stable and responsible manner during his visits with Ashley. Furthermore, Ashley's counsel represented that Ashley missed her father and his family and did not want her visits with them ended.
The guardians' argument that the court failed to consider detriment to Ashley fails. Such consideration is not legally required of the trial court. (Noreen G., supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at p. 1383.) The trial court followed the correct legal standard set forth in section 1516.5 in considering Ashley's best interest. This finding is supported by substantial evidence.
The judgment is affirmed. Respondent is awarded his costs on appeal, if any.