In re Xavier D.

Connecticut Appellate Court

March 31, 2009

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS/RES JUDICATA.

The appellate court rejected the mother’s argument that the doctrine of res judicata precluded further proceedings on a termination petition by any trial court after another trial court had granted the mother’s motion for dismissal of the petition.

The respondent mother successfully moved to strike the neglect petition and to dismiss the termination petition because both documents were based on a charge of physical abuse of the child that was not supported by the petitioner’s specific allegations of parental misconduct. The court denied the state’s request to correct the neglect petition and subsequently dismissed the termination petition as well.

Another court, relying on the fact that the petitions had not dismissed after a hearing on the merits, set aside the dismissal and reinstated the termination petition. The parties later participated in a hearing on the merits, after which the court terminated the mother’s parental rights. The sole basis for the mother’s appeal was her argument that res judicata should have barred the reinstatement of the termination of petition. The appellate court noted the long standing proposition that the “application of the doctrine of res judicata requires that there be a previous judgment on the merits.” Here, the appellate noted, the underlying basis for the trial court’s initial dismissal of the termination petition was entirely procedural. Therefore, res judicata did not bar a court from vacating the earlier dismissal and reinstating the petition.

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