In re Justice V.

Appellate Court

December 9, 2008

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/ABANDONMENT/LACK OF SPECIFIC STEPS:

This case involves an appeal from the trial court’s order terminating parental rights as to Justice V on the ground of abandonment. The crux of the appeal was whether the trial court’s failure to issue specific following the neglect adjudication precluded the trial court from granting termination of parental rights on the ground of abandonment. Respondent mother also claimed that the trial court’s factual findings that TPR was warranted were clearly erroneous.

DCF took temporary custody of Justice V. 2006, when he was then four years old. The order of temporary custody was sustained due to respondent’s failure to appear. Due to the respondent’s threats to DCF employees, a protective order was issued preventing respondent from having any contact with the child except as arranged by DCF. Justice V. was adjudicated neglected and committed to the custody of the petitioner on January 16, 2007 after the respondent again failed to appear. Subsequent to the adjudication and commitment, respondent filed a motion to revoke the child’s commitment and have custody transferred to maternal grandmother. The motion was denied on April 20, 2007, and a petition to terminate parental rights was filed thereafter. The trial court ruled on the petition, and parental rights were terminated.

On appeal the court agreed that the trial court failed to follow the provisions of CGS 46b-129 and order specific steps. Nonetheless, the court held that this failure did not result in manifest injustice, as respondent’s rights were terminated on the basis of abandonment, not on grounds of the respondent’s failure to rehabilitate. The appellate court also affirmed the trial court’s finding that the respondent would not have benefited from efforts to reunify her with her child, thereby rendering the trial court’s failure to issue specific steps harmless in this case. Respondent continuously threatened DCF employees, failed to visit Justice V. or inquire into the child’s well-being, and never sought reunification with the child.

This case can be accessed on the Judicial Branch’s website athttp://www.jud.state.ct.us/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP111/111AP65.pdf

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