In re Dylan C.

Connecticut Appellate Court

January 11, 2011

TPR/FAILURE TO REHABILITATE/EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL

This termination of parental rights appeal underscores the court’s emphasis on parental as opposed to personal rehabilitation under CGS 17a-112(j), as well as the distinction that the court makes between compliance with specific steps and progress derived from that compliance. In this case, although the respondent mother had complied with a number of court ordered expectations, the court found that she struggled to maintain adequate housing and had not made sufficient progress in understanding how domestic violence affected her family. The court concluded, in no small part based on the opinions of the court ordered evaluation, that the mother still could not parent safely and effectively and may not be able to in a reasonably foreseeable period of time. The court acknowledged some additional progress the mother had made after the termination of parental rights petition had been filed, but noted that too many parents wait until this juncture to address outstanding needs and often there is not enough time to address these needs fully.

Finally, in rejecting the respondent’s claim that she received ineffective assistance of counsel, the appellate court articulated the following standard: ‘‘In determining whether counsel has been ineffective in a termination proceeding, we have enunciated the following standard: The range of competence . . . requires not errorless counsel, and not counsel judged ineffective by hindsight, but counsel whose performance is reasonably competent, or within the range of competence displayed by lawyers with ordinary training and skill in [that particular area of the] law. . . . The respondent must prove that [counsel’s performance] fell below this standard of competency and also that the lack of competency contributed to the termination of parental rights. . . . A showing of incompetency without a showing of resulting prejudice . . . does not amount to ineffective assistance of counsel.’’ (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.)

In this case, the appellate court found that it need look no further than the fact that respondent could not demonstrate any prejudice from the allegedly ineffective representation, in large part due to the ample evidence in the record to support the trial court’s findings.

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