In re Stacey G.

Connecticut Appellate Court

94 Conn. App. 348 (2006)

March 21, 2006
In a short and straightforward case, the Appellate Court reversed a trial court’s denial of a father’s motion to transfer guardianship on evidentiary grounds, and because the trial court would not grant a continuance to hear evidence from a forensic psychologist.

The father’s travails began back in August 1999 when the Department of Children and Families (“Department”) removed his two year old daughter Stacey from the custody of the appellant father and his wife. After a court ordered adjudication of neglect, the Department placed the in the care of the father’s sister and brother-in-law (the “guardians”). In April 2001, the Department transferred legal guardianship to the guardians and Stacey’s commitment was revoked. The father’s parental rights were never terminated. In July 2002, the father wrote a letter to the court, which was treated as a motion to open the transfer of guardianship and motion to restore guardianship to him. Subsequently, in March 2004, the father obtained an order releasing the Department’s files in the matter to a forensic psychologist for the limited purpose of conducting a forensic examination of the father which was to be conducted prior to the hearing on the motion to reopen. Before forensic evaluation was completed, however, the court held the hearing on the motion to transfer guardianship. Despite hearing evidence that went directly to the father’s parental capacity – the court denied a motion to continue pending the completion of the forensic evaluation and denied the motion to transfer guardianship.

On appeal, the court found two grounds to reverse the trial court and remand for a new hearing. First, the trial court’s admission of three psychological reports containing allegations by persons other than the author that the respondent had sexually abused another child, despite the fact that the respondent had never been arrested in connection with those allegations. The fact that a trial court has a certain latitude in disregarding incompetent evidence did not overcome the fact that the reports were themselves inadmissible hearsay – with allegations presented (by the evaluators) that were not subject to cross examination at the hearing. Second, the court’s failure to grant the father’s motion for a continuance so that he could present testimony from the forensic psychologist was an abuse of discretion. It was somewhat strange that the trial judge would allow the Department’s records to be released to the psychologist but then deny the continuance until the evaluation was completed. For those reasons, the court predetermined its view of the evidence that the father sought to obtain and present.

This case may be found at the Judicial Branch website by going towww.jud.state.ct.us/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP94/94AP531.pdf

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