Supreme Court changes guidelines on parental rights

CARSON CITY - Reversing a 1984 decision, the Nevada Supreme Court has established new guidelines in cases of termination of parental rights.

The court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Deborah Agosti, said District Court judges must consider both the best interest for the child and the conduct of the parents before terminating the rights to a child.

The 1984 decision said a court must first find parental fault before it can proceed to consider the best interests of the child.

The high court overturned the finding of Family Court in Las Vegas in a fight between the biological parents of a child and the mother's sister and brother-in-law.

The Family Court held that there was no clear and convincing evidence the biological parents, identified only as Raja and Hikmet, had abandoned their child. Following the previous Supreme Court ruling, Family Court didn't reach the second test - the best interest of the child.

The child was born in 1988 in Iraq. In early 1990, Raja and the child traveled to Michigan. The mother returned to Iraq and left the child in Michigan with her sister and brother-in-law, Talia and Sam.

In 1997, Talia and Sam asked a Nevada court for permission to adopt and terminate parental rights. The biological parents, stranded in Iraq part of the time because of the Persian Gulf War, opposed the petition.

Family Court denied a petition to terminate parental rights and rejected a motion for a new trial. The appeal to the Supreme Court followed.


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