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Termination of parental rights in Connecticut

Terminating parental rights is a legal process taken seriously by the Court.

Termination of parental rights is defined by Connecticut state law as:

[T]he complete severance by court order of the legal relationship, with all its rights and responsibilities, between child and his parent or parents so that the child is free for adoption

Actually moving forward with termination of parental rights is not an easy process. Parental rights are viewed as a fundamental liberty, one that is not lost simply by being a bad parent. The state defines the process as a "judicial matter of exceptional gravity and sensitivity" and views termination as "the ultimate interference by the state in the parent-child relationship."

Termination of parental rights in Connecticut: The basics

The termination process can begin a number of ways. For instance, one or both parents, the guardian of the child, a relative of the child or an authorized officer of a children's home can petition the court for termination of parental rights. The petition is generally filed with the Probate Court in the applicable district. It includes information about the child, the petitioner and the parents.

Once filed, the Probate Court will generally hold a hearing within 30 days. The hearing provides all interested parties an opportunity to provide evidence and present arguments based on their respective positions.

Termination of parental rights in Connecticut: The legal process.

Courts take a number of factors into consideration when making their determination. This often includes a review of the best interest of the child. This can include a consideration of the child's age, the nature of the relationship between child and birth parent as well as the psychological and medical needs of the child. It is important to note that the best interest of the child is not the court's primary consideration when determining if parental rights should be terminated.

The Court will also consider a variety of factors, including the presence of any outstanding court orders, the emotional ties and feelings of the child towards the parents as well as the efforts taken by the parent to adjust behavior or circumstances to provide a safe environment for the child.

Termination can be granted based on the consent of the parent. This generally requires the court to find, upon clear and convincing evidence, that the termination is both in the best interest of the child and that the parent consenting to termination of parental rights voluntarily and knowingly consents.

In some situations, the Court may grant termination when consent is lacking. Grounds for termination can include:

  • Abandonment. This ground requires the child was abandoned by the parent. This is explained as a situation in which the parent "failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child."
  • Well-being. Situations of abuse, molestation and exploitation that lead to a lack of providing for the child's physical, education, moral and emotional well-being also provides grounds for termination. In some instances, presence of a severe physical injury can also satisfy this ground.
  • Conviction. The presence of certain criminal convictions can also lead to the termination of parental rights.

These are just a few of the issues to take into consideration when petitioning for the termination of parental rights. Those who are considering this process or find themselves facing a termination hearing against their wishes are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney.