Submitted: January 11, 2019
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File No.
CK17-01060 Petition Nos. 17-01323 17-08941
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and TRAYNOR, Justices.
Strine, Jr. Chief Justice.
consideration of the parties' briefs and the record
below, it appears to the Court that:
respondent below-appellant, Taylor Peeta ("the
Mother"), filed an appeal from the Family Court's
order, dated February 8, 2018, granting the petition for
permanent guardianship filed by the petitioner
below-appellee, Jenny Blank ("the Paternal
Grandmother"). Having carefully reviewed the record, we
find no error or abuse of the discretion in the Family
Court's decision. Accordingly, we affirm the Family
Mother and the Paternal Grandmother's son ("the
Father") were the parents of a son born in 2005
("the Child"). The Child lived with the Father.
After the Father died in late 2016, the Child moved to live
with his paternal grandparents. Paternal Grandmother filed,
along with her daughter, a petition for permanent
guardianship of the Child. The Family Court ordered A Better
Chance for Our Children to prepare a social study under 13
Del. C. § 2354.
Mother opposed permanent guardianship, but did not oppose a
temporary guardianship while she was incarcerated. Counsel
was appointed to represent the Mother. The Mother filed a
pro se motion to dismiss the petition for permanent
guardianship, petition for custody, motion for ineffective
assistance of counsel, and a petition to change venue. The
Family Court denied all of these motions.
Family Court held a hearing on the petition for permanent
guardianship on January 11, 2018. The aunt was removed from
the petition for permanent guardianship. The aunt, the
Paternal Grandmother, a counselor from the Child's
school, an employee of A Better Chance for Our Children, and
the Mother testified at the hearing. The Family Court also
interviewed the Child separately.
aunt and the Paternal Grandmother testified that the Father
had raised the Child as a single parent. They helped the
Father, who moved to live near the Paternal Grandmother three
years before his death, care for the Child. After the Father
died, the Child moved in with his grandparents. The aunt and
Paternal Grandmother testified that before the Father died
the Mother had little involvement in the Child's life and
had not paid any child support. The Child spent time with the
Mother's other children (who did not live with her) and
continued to do so after the Father's death.
school counselor testified that the Child was a special needs
student who had made good progress since coming to the
school. The school did not know the Mother was alive until
recently because the Child had told everyone that she was
dead. The employee from A Better Chance for Our Children
testified about her investigation, which included interviews
of the Child and paternal grandparents, a telephone call with
the Mother (who was supposed to call again but did not do so)
criminal background checks, and reference checks. The
employee recommended granting of the petition for permanent
guardianship because the Mother was incarcerated and unlikely
to assume care of the Child in the near future, the Child
expressed a strong desire to stay with his grandparents, and
his grandparents could provide him with a good home.
Mother testified that she began serving a seven-year sentence
for distribution of cocaine in March 2016. Based on her
completion of various programs and receipt of good time and
Maryland parole rules, she expected to receive probation or
parole as early as April 2018. The Mother opposed permanent
guardianship because she would be released from jail soon and
she and the Father had shared custody of the Child, with the
Child seeing the Mother every weekend, until she was
incarcerated. She also testified that she spoke with the
Child on the telephone three or four times a week while the
Father was alive, but that the Paternal Grandmother was not
letting her speak with the Child on the telephone. She said
she was never asked to provide child support, but she took
care of the Child when he was with her.
his interview with the Family Court judge, the Child said he
would see the Mother once every six months or so while he
lived with the Father. The Father told him he could see the
Mother every month, but he did not want to. When he lived
with the Father, he did not speak to the Mother on the
telephone because she never called. The Child said he wanted
to live with his grandparents and if something happened to
them, then he wanted to live with his aunt.
an order dated February 8, 2018, the Family Court granted the
petition for permanent guardianship. Applying 13 Del. C.
§ 2353,  the Family Court found by clear and
convincing evidence that the one of the grounds for
termination of parental rights under 13 Del. C. §
1103(a) had been met. The Mother had failed to plan
adequately for the Child's physical, mental, emotional
health and development, the Child had resided in the home of
a relative for at least a year, the Mother was incapable of
discharging her parental responsibilities, and there was
little likelihood that the Mother would be able to discharge
those responsibilities in the future. The Family Court also
found that adoption was not ...