Ever Wonder about Parental Termination, Abandonment, and the Best Interests of the Child?

Parental termination

Parental termination has been equated to be the civil equivalent of the death penalty. When a court entertains a motion seeking such an action, it partakes in a two-step inquiry: whether, by clear and convincing evidence, one or more statutory grounds for termination exist and termination is in the best interests of the child. In the first part of the inquiry, the court looks to the facts of the case to see whether the party seeking termination has shown at least the presence of one statutory ground for terminating parental rights.

One such ground is abandonment, which constitutes a parent’s “failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child.” The court will consider attempts at physical and telephonic contact with the child, whether the parent sent gifts or cards on birthdays and the like, and whether the parent provided any financial support for the child. Sporadic attempts are insufficient to be considered “reasonable.”

Child’s Best Interests

As to the second part of the inquiry, the court must determine whether it is in the child’s best interests to maintain parental rights or to terminate them. Best interests include “the child’s interests in sustained growth, development, well-being, and continuity and stability of its environment.” The focus is on what’s best for the child, not what is best for the parent. When a court decides one way or the other, it must consider and make factual findings regarding seven factors found in General Statutes § 45a-717(h), including but not limited to the age of the child and the attempts made by a parent to adjust his or her circumstances, conditions, and conduct so as to allow reunification with the child.

Appellate Court of Connecticut: Post-Judgment Divorce Action

In a post-judgment divorce action, the Appellate Court of Connecticut upheld a lower court’s termination of a father’s parental rights to his son. In that case, the father had exhibited inconsistent, unorthodox, threatening, and criminal behavior that caused the mother to flee the State of New York to hide in Connecticut with their child.

The father abused alcohol and drugs, and after their son was born, he would frequently disappear for prolonged periods of time. While the father was incarcerated, he failed to take advantage of established programs that would have allowed him the opportunity to keep phone contact with his son, and even when he had supervised visitation, he frequently missed scheduled visits. Furthermore, during therapy sessions, the son expressed the desire to not have contact with his father, and the apparent need to learn karate to protect him and his mother should the father attempt to harm them.

The mother sought termination of the father’s parental rights, and the trial court concluded, based on the evidence presented reflecting the above and additional testimony from therapists, other professionals, and additional witnesses, that termination was proper. It determined by clear and convincing evidence that the father abandoned his son, and that reestablishing contact with the child would be detrimental to the child’s well-being and best interests. The father appealed the decision, but the Appellate Court agreed with the lower court’s findings and affirmed the judgment.

Whether advancing or defending a post-judgment motion regarding parental rights, a parent is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation.