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In re Payton V.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

June 10, 2015


Argued, April 6, 2015

Page 167

Petitions to terminate the respondent father's parental rights with respect to his minor children, brought to the New London Regional Children's Probate Court, where the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut intervened; thereafter, the matter was transferred to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New London, Juvenile Matters at Waterford, and tried to the court, Driscoll, J.; judgments terminating the respondent's parental rights, from which the respondent appealed to this court.


The respondent father appealed to this court from the judgments of the trial court terminating his parental rights with respect to his minor children, P and M. The petitioner, the mother of the children, previously had been married to the respondent and they shared joint legal custody. During a regularly scheduled visit with the respondent, he severely beat M with a belt, leaving contusions on M's buttocks and back. P had heard M screaming, but did not witness the beating. The respondent was criminally charged and, in conjunction with his sentencing, the court imposed an order that he have no contact with M. The respondent has not seen either child since the incident, and the petitioner sought to have his parental rights terminated. The trial court found that the statutory (§ 45a-717 [g] [B]) adjudicatory grounds had been satisfied as to both children due to the respondent's failure to provide financial and emotional support to the children during his incarceration and as a result of the criminal and civil protective orders that followed, and that the termination of his parental rights was in the children's best interest. Held that the trial court properly terminated the respondent's parental rights with respect to his children, the grounds for termination set forth in § 45a-717 (g) (2) (B) having been established by clear and convincing evidence, and that court's conclusion that termination of parental rights was in the best interests of the children having been properly based on the factors contained in § 45a-717 (h) and supported by clear and convincing evidence: there was no merit to the respondent's claim that the trial court erred as a matter of law in concluding that the requirements of § 45a-717 (g) (2) (B) had been satisfied because the children were provided the care, guidance or control necessary for their well-being by the petitioner and therefore were not deprived of that care, as the statute does not exempt a parent who fails to provide the necessary care simply because the other parent provides that care during his absence; furthermore, the petitioner's failure to testify at trial did not result in insufficient evidence to support the conclusion that termination of the respondent's parental rights was in the children's best interest, as the trial court conducted a thorough and proper best interest analysis and made the necessary factual findings required by § 45a-717 (h), and its determinations were supported by clear and convincing evidence, including that there were criminal and civil " no contact" orders issued against the respondent as to the children, that the children had no relationship with the respondent, that the respondent had not acknowledged the nature or severity of the physical abuse and attempted to minimize or misrepresent it, and that the testimony of a psychologist who examined the children supported the conclusion that reintroduction of the respondent to the children would put them at serious risk of physical and emotional harm.

David J. Reich, for the appellant (respondent).

Joshua Michtom, assistant public defender, for the appellee (petitioner).

Gruendel, Alvord and Mullins, Js.


Page 168


[158 Conn.App. 155] The respondent father appeals from the judgments of the trial court terminating his parental rights as to his children, Payton and Maddy. On appeal, the respondent claims that (1) the court's factual findings did not support its legal conclusion pursuant to General Statutes § 45a-717 (g) (2) (B), and (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the court's conclusion [158 Conn.App. 156] that it was in the best interest of the children to terminate his parental rights because the petitioner, the children's mother, did not testify.[1] We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

The following facts, as found by the trial court, and relevant procedural history inform our review. The respondent and the petitioner married on May 14, 2006, when the petitioner was eighteen years old and the respondent was twenty-seven years old. Two children were born of the marriage, a daughter, Payton, who was born in July, 2006, and a son, Maddy, who was born in September, 2007. The marriage of the parties was dissolved on February 18, 2011, and the parties were awarded joint legal custody of the children, with primary physical custody awarded to the petitioner. Both parties have since remarried.

The respondent " visited regularly with his children until March 24, 2012. . . . On March 24, 2012, Maddy [who was four years old] and Payton [who was five years old] were in [the respondent's] home during their regularly scheduled visit. At some point during the day, the children were alone with [the respondent] and Maddy was subjected to what [the respondent] told the police, the Department of Children and Families' . . . worker (department), and the court was corporal punishment for sneaking out of the house, running into the road, and almost being struck by a car. [The respondent] claimed he spanked the child, and he told the police that he may have hit Maddy too hard. The child told the police, in a very incomplete way, that he was punished for looking into a dresser drawer. [The respondent] beat his child severely [on] the buttocks and lower [158 Conn.App. 157] back. He did so with a belt. Payton heard Maddy screaming, though she was not present to watch the beating. [The respondent] did not disclose the incident to his wife until the night of March 24, 2012. [The respondent] was bathing Maddy and brought his wife in to observe the severe bruising on the boy's buttocks and back. [His wife] made [the respondent] call [the petitioner]. [The respondent] crying, told [the petitioner that] he'd hurt Maddy. [The petitioner went to the respondent's] residence after calling the police. Several police officers responded, and [the respondent] was observed crying and remorseful. [The respondent] admitted causing Maddy's injury . . . [and he] was arrested. [The petitioner] accompanied Maddy to the hospital [where] Maddy was seen, treated, and released. Maddy was diagnosed with contusions on his buttocks and back, and both were tender to palpation.

" [The respondent] claimed [to the police that] he only struck Maddy with his hand three times on [the] buttocks. He was distraught in the presence of the police, ...

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