Court Awards Primary Residence to Father in Consolidated DCF Case

DCF Case Decision

In a DCF case decision involving both a juvenile case and a proceeding in the family division of the Superior Court, a father was awarded primary residence of his daughter following a substantial change in circumstances.  The Department of Children and Families initially became involved in the matter when it filed a neglect petition alleging that the child was being denied proper care and attention, or alternatively, was being permitted to live under conditions injurious to her well-being.

Shortly thereafter, a finding of neglect entered.  Prior to the commencement of the DCF proceedings, however, the father filed a motion to modify custody and visitation in the Superior Court.  The matters were consolidated and a dispositional hearing was held in the juvenile court.

Motion to Modify and Disposition of the Neglect Proceeding

In its decision, the court first noted the standards governing the father’s motion to modify and the disposition of the neglect proceeding, respectively.  First, it explained that after an adjudication of neglect, a court may: 1) commit the child to the Commissioner of DCF; 2) vest guardianship in a third party; or 3) permit the parent to retain custody with or without protective supervision.  In determining the disposition portion of the neglect proceedings, the court must decide which of the custody alternatives is in the child’s best interest.  With respect to the father’s motion to modify, the court noted that a party seeking modification of an existing court order must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances to warrant the change requested.

Court Findings

From a factual standpoint, the court found that the mother and father were never married.  Although the father had an extensive criminal background, and had been incarcerated for domestic violence directed at the child’s mother, he was later released on probation.  His new residence was approved by the Office of Adult Probation, and was also approved as an appropriate placement for the child.

At the time of the hearing, the father was employed, had no pending criminal charges and was compliant with his conditions of probation.  Immediately prior to the filing of the neglect petition, the mother was arrested on numerous narcotics charges, which were still pending at the time of the hearing.  After her arrest, both she and the father allowed the child to reside with the maternal grandmother during the mother’s access time.  At the time of the hearing, the mother was living in a sober house.

Review of Evidence

After reviewing the evidence, and presumably based on the father’s release from prison (and the mother’s subsequent arrest), the court found that a substantial change in circumstances existed warranting a modification to the then existing custody and visitation orders.  Simultaneously addressing its obligation to select a custody arrangement for the child pursuant to the neglect proceedings, the court further found that it was in the child’s best interest to live with the father on a primary basis, subject to a six month period of protective supervision.

Should you have any questions regarding DCF matters, or family matters in general, please feel free to contact managing partner, Attorney Joseph C. Maya.  He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at jmaya@mayalaw.com. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation.