In re Kamora W

Appellate Court

Nov. 15, 2011

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE/FAILURE TO REHABILITATE

This termination of parental rights appeal brought by respondent father challenged the sufficiency of the evidence for the trial court’s findings that the father failed to rehabilitate. Specifically, the father claimed that the court lacked clear and convincing evidence to conclude that father had unresolved substance abuse issues, that he remained engaged in a domestic violence relationship with Kamora’s mother or that he lacked a familial support system to assist him with caring for Kamora, a medically complex young child, on his own. Respondent attached legal significance to post trial comments made by the trial court questioning the sufficiency of the evidence and requesting post trial briefs on the matter.

Affirming the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Court noted that although the respondent father completed a substance abuse program in 2009 and tested negative for drugs in September 2010, the respondent tested positive for cocaine in early 2010, declined to participate in further treatment and denied the impact that substance abuse may have on his daughter. Additionally, the Court rejected father’s claim that he had no notice that an ongoing relationship with respondent mother may jeopardize reunification with Kamora. The Court pointed to ample evidence of mother’s instability, father’s recognition of mother’s ongoing substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as statements by the DCF social worker to father that this relationship undermined his chances of reunification. Regarding the trial court’s comments and request for post-trial briefs, the Appellate Court noted that “[t]he court made these comments before carefully evaluating all of the evidence in context…[The request for post trial briefs]… shows only that, before making its ruling, this court pressed the parties to provide the court with enough information on which to base its decision. “

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