In re Jaime S.

Connecticut Appellate Court

April 27, 2010

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/ABANDONMENT/INCARCERATED FATHER

In this appeal, the respondent father challenged the trial court’s decision to terminate his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision, and citing In re Ashley E., 62 Conn. App. 307 (2001), reasoned that though the father had occasionally pursued visitation and telephone calls with the child, the father’s contact was sporadic and marked by inappropriate, sometimes violent conduct towards the family. Furthermore, though incarceration alone will not support a finding of abandonment, the appellate court noted that the father engaged in conduct which caused his incarceration, thereby disrupting his relationship with his son. The court observed that the father did not avail himself of prison programs which would have permitted him to seek visitation or phone calls with his son. Additionally, the father’s violent, threatening and erratic conduct caused the petitioning mother to seek protective orders and take other measures which barred the father from having access to the child. The appellate court concluded that “although the father has expressed a desire to have a positive relationship with his son, by his conduct, he has abandoned the child by failing to be a responsible parent in the manner contemplated by our child welfare statutes.”

The appellate court also rejected the father’s claim that his due process rights were violated when the court declined to continue the second day of trial to permit the father, who was being detailed by federal immigration officials, to participate via teleconference. The court, applying the Matthews v. Eldridge due process analysis, found that the father’s rights were not violated. The court noted that the father had participated by phone on the first day, that the second day of trial involved only the testimony of the father’s witness—the court-appointed psychologist—that the father had the witness’s report months prior to trial and therefore had ample time to offer assistance to his counsel, and that the transcripts of the second trial date were forwarded to the father, therefore allowing him and counsel time to review the proceedings and request an opening of the evidence. Accordingly, despite the significant nature of the liberty interest at stake, the court ruled that the father’s interests were adequate guarded and that the state’s right to protect the well-being of the child and the child’s need for permanency outweighed any risk of erroneous deprivation of liberty.

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