Voluntary Application for Termination of Parental Rights Denied As Not In Child’s Best Interest

In a post-judgment action involving termination of parental rights, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield, Juvenile Matters at Bridgeport found that despite the existence of a statutory ground for terminating parental rights, the petitioner failed to sustain his burden of proof that it would be in the best interests of the child to do so.

The petitioner, father, had six children prior to the birth of his seventh child in 2005 with respondent, mother. The father and mother were friends prior to their relationship turning sexual, and when she informed him that she was pregnant, he said he did not want a seventh child. The father gave the mother money to have an abortion, and although she took this money, she decided not to undergo the procedure. When the mother was hospitalized prior to giving birth to their son, the father admitted he visited her hoping she had had a miscarriage.

The father had numerous orders to pay child support for his six other children, which along with voluntary payments of support totaled $200 per week. The father only made $300 gross per week. The mother succeeded in establishing a child support order for their son, but as of November 2008, the father was in arrears on this order in the amount of $4,653, and he sought a downward modification of this order. The father made no attempts to visit the child, conveyed that he did not want the child or a relationship with the child, and stated that the child would be better off without him in the child’s life. The father admitted to the social worker assigned to this case that the mother’s child support order was a financial hardship.

When a court considers a petition to terminate parental rights, it first considers whether or not, under General Statutes § 17a-112 (j), a statutory ground allowing for termination exists by clear and convincing evidence. One such ground is abandonment, which occurs where a parent does not visit the child, show love or affection for or personally interact with the child, or display any concern for the child’s welfare. If a statutory ground for termination is established, the court then determines whether or not termination is in the best interests of the child.

In this case, the court found by clear and convincing evidence that the child had been abandoned by the father, who failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern, or responsibility for the child. The father clearly stated he did not want the child or wish for a relationship with him. However, the court was not convinced that termination was in the best interests of the child, though it might be in the best interests of the father. The degree of concern the father showed in the amount of child support he had to pay the mother was key to this inquiry, and the court was convinced that finances played a significant role in the father seeking termination of parental rights. Because termination was not what was best for the child, the court denied the father’s petition seeking termination of parental rights.

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.