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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Rowan B. v. State, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services (11/25/2015) sp-7065

Rowan B. v. State, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services (11/25/2015) sp-7065

         Notice:  This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC  REPORTER.  

          Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts,  

          303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email  

          corrections@akcourts.us.  



                    THE  SUPREME  COURT  OF  THE  STATE  OF  ALASKA  



ROWAN  B.  SR.,                                               )  

                                                              )     Supreme  Court  No.  S-15862  

                             Appellant,                       )  

                                                                                                   

                                                              )     Superior Court Nos. 3PA-12-00057/  

                                                                                         

          v.                                                  )    00058/00059 CN  

                                                              )  

                                   

STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT                                   )                       

                                                                   O P I N I O N  

                                        

OF HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES,                                  )  

                                                                                                           

OFFICE OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES,   )                                 No. 7065 - November 25, 2015  

                                                              )
  

                             Appellee.                        )
  

                                                              )
  



                                                                                                   

                   Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third  

                                                                                   

                   Judicial District, Palmer, Kari Kristiansen, Judge.  



                                                                                                      

                   Appearances:  Josie Garton, Assistant Public Defender, and  

                                                                                                            

                   Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant.  

                                                                                                     

                   Laura  Fox,  Assistant  Attorney  General,  Anchorage,  and  

                                                                                             

                   Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau,  for Appellee.  

                                                                                                    

                   Rachel  Levitt,  Assistant  Public  Advocate,  Palmer,  and  

                                                                                       

                   Richard Allen, Public Advocate, Anchorage,  Guardian Ad  

                   Litem.  



                                                                                                      

                   Before:  Stowers, Chief Justice, Fabe, Winfree, Maassen, and  

                                

                   Bolger, Justices.  



                               

                   FABE, Justice.  



I.        INTRODUCTION  



                                                                                                                

                   A father appeals the termination of his parental rights to his three biological  



                                                                                                                         

children.  The children were adjudicated children in need of aid based on findings that  


----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

the father had sexually and physically abused his daughters.  In a criminal proceeding   



the father was convicted on 29 counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and                                                                                                         



one count of incest.                            The father sought a delay of the termination proceedings pending              



appealof his criminal convictions, but the                                                     superior court deniedthis continuancerequest.                                                               



The father appeals, arguing that the superior court abused its discretion by denying the                                                                                                          



request.   Because the superior court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the                                                                                                         



children's interest in permanency weighed heavily against delaying                                                                                                  the termination   



proceedings for years while the father pursues his criminal appeal, we affirm.                                                                                       

II.             FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS                                                        1  



                                                                                                                                                                                                           

                               Rowan  B.,  Sr. and  Risa F.  are the divorced  parents of three children:  



                                                                                    2  

                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                        After Rowan and Risa divorced, Rowan received  

Agnes, Rowan Jr. (Junior), and Saul. 



                                                                                                                                                                                          

custody of their three children as well as custody of Risa's two older daughters, Aeryn  



                                                                                                                                                 

and Reagan.  Aeryn and Reagan have now reached the age of majority.  



                                                                                                                                                                                      

                               In 2012 Aeryn reported to the police and the Office of Children's Services  



                                                                                                                                                                                                    

(OCS) that she and Reagan had been physically and sexually abused by Rowan over an  



                                                                                                                                                                                     

extended time period.   Aeryn also expressed her concern that Rowan was sexually  



                                                                                                                                                                                          

abusing Agnes.   OCS filed an emergency custody petition and removed the minor  



                                                                                                               

children - Agnes, Junior, and Saul - in June 2012.  



                1              We previously reviewed the superior court's adjudication of the children  



                                                                                                                                                                        

as children in need of aid (CINA).  See Rowan B., Sr. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc.  

                                                                                                                                                                                          

Servs.,  Office  of  Children's  Servs.,  320  P.3d  1152,  1156-57,  1159  (Alaska  2014)  

                                                                                                                                                                                     

(remanding andretainingjurisdiction dueto legal error when denying discovery request);  

                                                                                                                                                                                         

Rowan B., Sr. v. State, Dep't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Office of Children's Servs.,  

                                                                                                                                                                                          

No.  S-15107,  2014  WL  4057175,  at  *1  (Alaska  Aug.  13,  2014)  (affirming  CINA  

                                  

adjudication).  



                2              We use pseudonyms to protect the family's privacy.  

                                                                                                                                      



                                                                                                 -2-                                                                                         7065
  


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                                                 The superior court held a contested adjudication proceeding in January and                                                                                                                                                                                  



February 2013.                                              Aeryn and Agnes both testified about Rowan's sexual and physical                                                                                                                                                              



abuse. Noting that he potentially could face criminal charges, Rowan chose not to testify                                                                                                                                                                                                          



at the adjudication proceedings.                                     



                                                At the conclusion of the adjudication proceedings, the superior court found                                                                                                                                                                          



that Rowan had sexually and physically abused Aeryn and Agnes.                                                                                                                                                                                  Relying on Aeryn's                          



and Agnes's testimony the court found that Rowan had threatened to kill Aeryn and                                                                                                                                                                                                



Agnes if they told anyone about the abuse.                                                                                                                     The court adjudicated Agnes, Junior, and                                                                                                     



 Saul children in need of aid based on Rowan's physical and sexual abuse of Agnes and                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



on Junior's and Saul's "repeated exposure to this severe abuse."                                                                                                                                              



                                                Rowan appealed the CINA adjudication, in part challenging the superior                                                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                  3       We concluded that it was error to deny  

court's denial of certain discovery requests.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



Rowan's discovery requests without properly applying the Alaska Civil Rules, and we  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     4        "On remand the  

therefore remanded for resolution of Rowan's discovery requests.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



superior court obtained, reviewed, and made available the various discovery items" and  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

"invited supplemental briefing,"but Rowan failed to respond.5  We once again addressed  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



the  CINA  adjudication  and  affirmed,  after  concluding  that  "the  superior  court's  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             



determination that Rowan sexually abused the children or placed them at risk of sexual  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

abuse, is not clearly erroneous."6  

                                                                          



                                                After the CINA adjudication, Rowan was charged in a separate criminal  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



proceeding for his sexual abuse of Aeryn, Reagan, and Agnes. A jury convicted Rowan  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



                        3                       See Rowan B., Sr.                                                 , 320 P.3d at 1156-57.                         



                        4  

                                                                     

                                                Id. at 1157-59.  



                        5  

                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                Rowan B., Sr., 2014 WL 4057175, at *1.  



                        6                       Id.  



                                                                                                                                                        -3-                                                                                                                                             7065
  


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of 29 counts of first degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of incest.  He was  



                                                                                                                             

sentenced to a composite term of 268.5 years with 107 years suspended and 161.5 years  



                                                                  

to serve.  Rowan is appealing his criminal convictions.  



                                                                                                                        

                    In April 2014 OCS petitioned to terminate Rowan's and Risa's parental  



                                                                                                                                

rights.   In his trial brief Rowan requested that the superior court hold its ruling "in  



                                                                                                                                  

abeyance" while Rowan appealed his criminal convictions, arguing that "the reversal of  



                                                                                                                              

the convictions could significantly change [Rowan's] ability to participate in the case  



                                                                                                                      

plan."      The  superior  court  ordered  supplemental  briefing  to  obtain  legal  argument  



                                 

addressing Rowan's request.  



                                                                                                                               

                    In a supplemental brief Rowan argued that a delay of the termination trial  



                                                                                                                               

pending  his  criminal  appeal  could  affect  the  outcome  of  the  proceedings  if  his  



                                                                                      

convictions were reversed and would not prejudice the children:  



                                                                                                           

                     [T]he  state's  evidence  against  [Rowan]  consists  of  the  

                                                                                                             

                    judgment in the criminal case.  There is a pending appeal of  

                                                                                                 

                    the conviction. The conduct in the criminal case is essentially  

                                                                                                           

                    the same conduct that was alleged in the Child in Need of Aid  

                                                                                                           

                    matter.       A  reversal  of  the  conviction  could  result  in  the  

                                                                                                       

                    discovery ofnewinformationregarding theallegations which  

                                                                                                            

                    are the basis of both the Child in Need of Aid matter and the  

                                                                                                     

                    criminal  matter.              The  children  are  in  a  stable  family  

                                                                                                          

                    placement, a placement which is not in jeopardy if the trial  

                                                                                                           

                    regarding [Rowan] is held in abeyance. . . . [T]he court has  

                                                                                                           

                    the  discretion  to  hold  the  trial  in  abeyance  pending  the  

                                                                                                             

                    outcome of a significant criminal case, and must evaluate in  

                                                                                                    

                    each case whether [to] hold[] the trial in abeyance pending  

                                                                

                    the outcome of the criminal matter.  



                                                                                                                                

                    OCS responded, asserting that Rowan's "appeal of his criminal case has  



                                                                                                                            

little to do with the evidence before the court because the department is not relying solely  



                                                                                                   

on his convictions of sexual abuse of a minor."  OCS explained that the superior court  



                                                                                                                                

had "heard direct testimony and evidence of the sexual abuse and physical abuse by  



                                                                -4-                                                         7065
  


----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

 [Rowan] . . . and the continued safety risks to the children." OCS noted that a trial court                                                                                                                                  



must hold a termination trial within six months of OCS petitioning to terminate parental                                                                                                                               



rights unless the court finds good cause for a continuance, "taking into consideration the                                                                                                                                          



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          7  

age of the child and the potential adverse effect that a delay may have on the child."                                                                                                                                                         



And OCS argued that Rowan's "last minute request to continue the trial or to hold the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



findings in abeyance for an indeterminate period of time, while he exhausts all criminal  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



appeals and post-conviction relief options available to him, is not in the children's best  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



interest."  

                             



                                     The guardian ad litem (GAL) similarly argued that "the mere fact that  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



 [Rowan] has appealed his conviction does not constitute good cause for continuing this  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



matter."  The GAL explained that the superior court "need not rely upon the fact of  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      



 [Rowan's] incarceration to adjudicate the children to be children in need of aid" because  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



the court "heard clear and convincing evidence of the harm that [Rowan] caused and the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



danger that he poses to his children." The GAL argued that the children needed "a sense  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



of safety and security" and that Rowan failed to show good cause to indefinitely continue  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     



the termination trial during the pendency of his criminal appeal.  

                                                                                                                                                           



                                     The superior court proceeded with the termination trial in January and  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  



February 2015. During the trial Rowan again asserted that a continuance was warranted  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



because OCS sought termination based on the same conduct that had been addressed in  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       



his criminal case, and because his ability to defend against the abuse allegations was  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



constrained  by  his  pending  criminal  appeal  and  "the  potential  Fifth  Amendment  

                                                                                                                                                                                                         



                  7                 See  AS 47.10.088(j) ("No later than six months after the date on which the                                                                                                                     



petition to terminate parental rights is filed, the court before which the petition is pending                                                                                                                         

shall hold a trial on the petition unless the court finds that good cause is shown for a                                                                                                                                                 

continuance. When                                     determining whether to grant a continuance for good cause, the court  

shall take into consideration the age of the child and the potential adverse effect that the                                                                                                                                        

delay may have on the child.").                                



                                                                                                                  -5-                                                                                                          7065
  


----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

implications."   Rowan estimated that "a year and three quarters to two years" would be                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



enough time to conclude his criminal appeal.                                                                                                                                    



                                                               The superior court denied the continuance request, noting that Rowan had                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



requested a continuance for a speculative time period, that a continuance would delay                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



permanency for the children, and that "[t]o delay that permanency for these children I                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



don't think is in their best interests." The court also explained that it terminated Rowan's                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



parental rights based on independent evidence of sexual abuse and that it did not believe                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         



that a reversal in Rowan's criminal appeal would entitle him to further termination                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



proceedings.   The court finally noted that exercising his Fifth Amendment privilege                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



against   self-incrimination  had   put   Rowan   "in   a   difficult   position,"   but   the   court  



ultimately concluded that "the best interests of the children are paramount, and it's their                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   



interest that the court has to be looking at primarily in deciding whether or not extensive                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



 stays of a termination proceeding are warranted."                                                                                                                             



                                                              Rowan appeals, arguing that the superior court abused its discretion by                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



denying his continuance request.                                                                                    



III.                            STANDARD OF REVIEW                                                                    



                                                               "We review a denial of a motion to continue for 'abuse of discretion,                                                                                                                                                                                                                            



determining   whether   a   party   has   been   deprived   of   a   substantial   right   or   seriously  

                                                                                                                                                                                                  8         "We will consider 'the particular facts and  

prejudiced by the lower court's ruling.' "                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        



circumstances  of  each  individual  case  to  determine  whether  the  denial  was  so  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

unreasonable or so prejudicial as to amount to an abuse of discretion.' "9  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          



                               8                              Hannah B. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., Office of Children's                                                                                                                                                                                                                           



Servs., 289 P.3d 924, 930 (Alaska 2012) (quoting                                                                                                                                                                                             Ben M. v. State, Dep't of Health &                                                                                                                           

Soc. Servs., Office of Children's Servs.                                                                                                                                              , 204 P.3d 1013, 1018 (Alaska 2009)).                                                                                                           



                               9                              A.A. v. State, Dep't of Family & Youth Servs., 982 P.2d 256, 259 (Alaska  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (continued...)  



                                                                                                                                                                                                    -6-                                                                                                                                                                                      7065
  


----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

IV.       DISCUSSION  



                    Alaska Statute 47.10.088(j) provides that in the absence of good cause for  

                                                                                                                               



delay, a termination trial must commence within six months after the filing of the petition  

                                                                                                                        



to terminate parental rights:  

                                            



                    No later than six months after the date on which the petition  

                                                                                                    

                    to terminate parental rights is filed, the court before which the  

                                                                                                           

                    petition is pending shall hold a trial on the petition unless the  

                                                                                                           

                    court  finds  that  good  cause  is  shown  for  a  continuance.  

                                                                                                                 

                    When determining whether to grant a continuance for good  

                                                                                                        

                    cause, the court shall take into consideration the age of the  

                                                                                                           

                    child and the potential adverse effect that the delay may have  

                                                                                                         

                    on the child.   The court shall make written findings when  

                                                                                                       

                    granting a continuance.[10]  

                                      



                    Rowan argues that the superior court's denial of his continuance request  

                                                                                                                         



was an abuse of discretion because he "was seriously prejudiced by the denial." Pointing  

                                                                                                                        

to the fundamental right "to care and custody of one's own child,"11  Rowan asserts that  

                                                                                                                              



there was good cause to continue the termination trial because his parental rights were  

                                                                                                                   



terminated based on the same conduct addressed in his criminal case and because he was  

                                                                                                                              



          9         (...continued)  



                                                                                                                    

1999) (quoting Alaska Marine Pilots v. Hendsch , 950 P.2d 98, 104 (Alaska 1997)).  



          10        See also CINA Rule 18(e) ("A trial on the petition to terminate parental  

                                                                                                                       

rights shall be held within six months after the date on which the petition to terminate  

                                                                                                                     

parental rights is filed, unless the court finds that good cause is shown for a continuance.  

                                                                                                                                     

When determining whether to grant a continuance for good cause, the court shall take  

                                                                                                             

into consideration the age of the child and the potential adverse effect that the delay may  

                                                                                                                             

have on the child. The court shall make written findings when granting a continuance.").  

                                                                                                             



          11        Richard B. v. State, Dep't of Health & Soc. Servs., Div. of Family & Youth  

                                                                                                                           

Servs., 71 P.3d 811, 831 (Alaska 2003) (quoting J.M.R. v. S.T.R. , 15 P.3d 253, 257  

                                                                                                                              

(Alaska 2001)).  

              



                                                               -7-                                                         7065
  


----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

                                                                                                                                                12  

unable "to f[r]eely and fully litigate the allegations of abuse."                                                                                     But our prior decisions          



on this issue do not support Rowan's claim.                                               

                                                                 13  R.F. had been convicted of murdering his child's mother,  

                                In  R.F. v. S.S.                ,                                                                                                                          



                                                                                                                                                                                                         14  

and his motion for a new trial in the criminal case had been denied and was on appeal.                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                         



After conducting aseparateterminationtrial thesuperiorcourtterminated R.F.'s parental  

                                                                                                                                                                                          



rights; R.F. appealed, arguing that the court "should not [have] consider[ed] terminating  

                                                                                                                                                                                  



his parental rights until after" a decision issued on his appeal of the denial of the motion  

                                                                                                                                                                                            

for a new trial.15                            We disagreed, explaining that "the best interests of the child are  

                                                                                                                                                                                                     



paramount" and that "[t]o leave a child in limbo during his formative years based upon  

                                                                                                                                                                                                 



the slim chance that R.F. may prevail on one of his many possible post-conviction relief  

                                                                                                                                                                                                 



measures contravenes the primary purpose of Alaska's adoption statute:  to advance the  

                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                             16  We noted with approval the superior court's conclusion that  

best interests of the child."                                                                                                                                                                       

                                              



the benefit of permanency for R.F.'s son "strongly outweighed R.F.'s interest in waiting  

                                                                                                                                                                                           



                                                                                                                                               17  

until after further post-conviction appeals have been heard."                                                                                       

                                                                                                                              



                12              In his reply brief Rowan raises an additional argument:                                                                             "And, so long as                    



his   convictions   remain   and   he   is   imprisoned,   he   cannot   fight   termination   because  

Rowan's convictions and imprisonment independently support termination, regardless                                                                                                   

of whether the trial court based its findings on the fact of the abuse." We do not address                                                                                                 

this argument "[b]ecause we deem waived any arguments raised for the first time in a                                                                                                                      

reply brief."                  Barnett v. Barnett                          , 238 P.3d 594, 603 (Alaska 2010).                                  



                13              928 P.2d 1194 (Alaska 1996).  

                                                                                        



                14             Id. at 1194-95.  

                                              



                15             Id. at 1195-96.  

                                              



                16             Id. at 1197.  

                                              



                17             Id.  

                                        



                                                                                                   -8-                                                                                           7065
  


----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

                                                                                                                                  18  

                      Similarly, in       A.A. v. State, Department of Family & Youth Services                                   ,   we  



emphasized   that    the    child's    best    interests    are    paramount    during    termination  



                     19  

                                                                                                                              

proceedings.             A.A. had been convicted of murder and an appellate court had reversed  



                         20  

                                                                                                                                      

                                Because  of  the  reversal,  A.A.  requested  a  continuance  of  his  

his  conviction. 



                                                                               21  

                                                                                                                    

termination trial until after his new murder trial.                                 The superior court denied A.A.'s  



                                                                                                                        

continuance  request  and  terminated  his  parental  rights,  noting  that  the  termination  



                                                                                                                                   

decision  was  not  based  on  the  murder  conviction  and  was  instead  based  on  other  



                                                          22  

                                                                                                                                 

instances of A.A.'s violent behavior.                         We affirmed, explaining that "a trial court should  



                                                                                                                               

have the discretion to proceed to a termination trial without a final ruling on a parent's  



                                                                                                                                      

criminal appeal" and that "even when a court has overturned a parent's conviction, that  



                                                                                                                                    

reversal does not prevent termination of parental rights as long as the termination rests  



                              23  

               

on other grounds." 



                                                                                                                                   

                     Rowan attempts to distinguish our decisions in R.F. and A.A.  Rowan notes  



                                                                                                                 

that in R.F., the child's medical needs created an additional need for permanency and  

                                                                    24    And  Rowan  argues  that  his  children's  

                                                                                                                           

                                                

weighed  against  granting  a  continuance. 



situation  is  different  because  there  was  evidence  that  they  were  doing  well  in  a  

                                                                                                                                         



           18         982  P.2d  256  (Alaska   1999).  



           19        Id.  at  260.  



           20        Id.  at  258-59.  



           21        Id.  at  259.  



           22        Id.  



           23        Id.  at  260.  



           24        See  R.F.  v.  S.S.,  928  P.2d  1194,  1197  (Alaska  1996)  ("The  trial  court  found  



that  [the  child]  has  serious  medical  needs  that  can  be  fully  addressed  only  if  he  has  both  

the  support  and  stability  of  a  permanent  family.").  



                                                                   -9-                                                             7065
  


----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

permanent family placement so that "delaying the termination trial would have little                                                                                                  



impact on them."                        Rowan also argues that unlike the situation in                                                       A.A. , Rowan's parental           



rights were terminated based solely on conduct related to Rowan's criminal convictions.                                                                               



But Rowan's arguments are not persuasive.                               



                              Rowan exercised his right not to testify at the adjudication or termination                                                              



proceedings. An individual "should not be penalized for invoking his Fifth Amendment                                                                                 

                        25   But when addressing Rowan's continuance request, the superior court had  

privilege."                                                                                                                                                                              



to balance Rowan's privilege against his children's "interest[s] in timely resolution of  

                                                                                                                                                                                           

the proceedings."26  

                                             



                              The Alaska Statutes and our precedent establish a clear policy:  The best  

                                                                                                                                                                                       



interests of children, including the interest in permanency as opposed to leaving children  

                                                                                                                                                                              

                                                     27  Alaska Statute 47.10.088(j) requires a termination trial within  

in limbo, are paramount.                                                                                                                                                           

                             



six months of the termination petition "unless the [superior] court finds that good cause  

                                                                                                                                                                                    



is shown for a continuance."  Thus, the superior court could not grant Rowan's request  

                                                                                                                                                                                



for a lengthy continuance unless the court found good cause.  And the legislature has  

                                                                                                                                                                                         



               25            Armstrong v. Tanaka                             , 228 P.3d 79, 84 (Alaska 2010).                          



               26            Id. at 84-85; see also Sarah D. v. John D., 352 P.3d 419, 427 (Alaska 2015)  

                                                                                                                                                                                    

("Whether a continuance was properly denied turns on the particular circumstances of  

                                                                                                                            

each case, but courts should 'balance the need[] for . . . promptness with the right[] to fair  

                                                                                                                                                                                         

presentation of the case.' " (alterations in original) (quoting Sylvester v. Sylvester, 723  

                                                                                                                                                                                        

P.2d 1253, 1256 (Alaska 1986))).  

                                                                             



               27             See  AS  47.10.005  ("The  provisions  of  this  chapter  shall  be  liberally  

                                                                                                                                                                             

construed  to  .  .  .  promote  the  child's  welfare  and  the  parents'  participation  in  the  

                                                                                                                                                                                         

upbringing  of  the  child  to  the  fullest  extent  consistent  with  the  child's  best  

                                                                                                                                                                                     

interests  .  .  .  .");  AS  47.10.088(j)  (requiring,  absent  good  cause  to  the  contrary,  a  

                                                                                                                                                                      

termination trial no later than six months after a petition to terminate parental rights is  

                                                                                                                                    

filed); A.A. , 982 P.2d at 260 ("[I]n a termination trial, the best interests of the child, not  

                                                                                                                                                                                         

those of the parents, are paramount.").  

                                                       



                                                                                            -10-                                                                                     7065
  


----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

directed that when making a good cause finding, "the court shall take into consideration                                             



the age of the child[ren] and the potential adverse effect that delay may have on the                                                                  

child[ren]."28  



                                                                                                                                                        

                        The  superior  court  properly  analyzed  the  impact  of  a  continuance  on  



                                                                                                                                                               

Rowan's children, finding that "[a] lengthy delay is not in the children['s] best interests."  



                                                                                                                                           

The court relied on evidence that the children were "anxious to proceed with adoption"  



                                                                                                                                             

and had already waited more than two years since their removal.  And record evidence  



                                                                                                                                          

established that Rowan's appeal, and thus his requested continuance, would potentially  



                                          

take an additional two years.  



                                                                                                                                                  

                        The superior court emphasized the children's need for permanency, taking  



                                                                                                                                                      

into  consideration  "the  potential  adverse  effect  that  the  delay  may  have  on  the  

                     29   and  determined  that  their  interest  outweighed  any  prejudice  Rowan  

child[ren],"                                                                                                                                   



suffered from invoking his right not to testify at trial pending the appeal of his criminal  

                                                                                                                                              



conviction.   The superior court recognized the difficulty of Rowan's position, but it  

                                                                                                                                                          



ultimately denied the continuance, concluding that granting a continuance and delaying  

                                                                                                                                              

permanency was not in the children's best interests.30                                                 Finally, as OCS persuasively  

                                                                                                                                      



notes, delaying termination trials "until a parent can testify without fear of criminal  

                                                                                                                                              



consequences . . . would drag out the most serious CINA cases to the detriment of  

                                                                                                                                                         



children who, like Agnes, have suffered the most severe abuse at the hands of their  

                                                                                                                                                    



parents."  



            28          AS  47.10.088(j).  



            29          Id.  



            30          The   superior   court   also  noted   that   because   it   had   "heard   independent  



evidence  of  the  sexual  abuse  and  continued  safety  risks  to  the  children  .  .  .  any  appeal  of  

the  criminal  case  w[ould]  not  likely  entitle  [Rowan]  to  further  CINA  proceedings."  



                                                                           -11-                                                                    7065
  


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                                                             We therefore conclude that the superior court did not abuse its discretion                                                                                                                                                             



when it refused to continue the termination trial.                                                                                                                                                                                  



V.                             CONCLUSION  



                                                             For the foregoing reasons we AFFIRM the superior court.                                                                                                                                                                                          



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