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On appeal, the court had to determine whether the termination was supported by clear and convincing evidence that it was done in the child’s best interests. In other words, “the mental retardation must directly affect the ability to parent,” the ruling said.
Stauber cited a rights-termination case in which a father suffered permanent brain damage in an accident and couldn’t control his anger and the child’s mother had a personality disorder.
In the Detroit Lakes father’s case, Stauber said some the county’s concerns were speculative and remain to be seen, such as the worry that he will be unable to keep up with his child’s development.
The county also had said it was worried the father might show poor judgment in an emergency.
But Dodd said “you would have to go a long way” to find a man with his client’s personal character. He recounted the father’s story of how he felt like the proudest dad in America one day when he took his little girl to church.
Dodd’s client will now work with the county to furnish additional services for child care, expanding the time the man spends with his daughter and seeing “how far he can take it,” the attorney said. If he gets in over his head, he will ask for help, Dodd said, adding, “He wouldn’t place her at risk.”
It remains to be seen if his client will become an effective full-time parent, Dodd said.
“I know, at a minimum, he could be a heck of good visitation dad,” he said.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465
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