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In re Daniel N.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

March 9, 2016

IN RE DANIEL N. ET AL. [*]

         Argued February 4, 2016.

          Petitions by the Commissioner of Children and Families to terminate the respondents' parental rights as to their minor children, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, Juvenile Matters, where the respondent father filed a motion to revoke the commitment of the minor children to the custody of the petitioner; thereafter, the matter was tried to the court, Cronan, J.; judgments denying the motion to revoke commitment and terminating the respondents' parental rights, from which the respondent mother appealed to this court.

          SYLLABUS

         The respondent mother, N, appealed to this court from the judgments of the trial court terminating her parental rights with respect to her three minor children, D, M, and J. The respondent father O, who was the father of M and J, filed a motion to revoke their commitment to the custody of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, and transfer their guardianship to O's parents. The trial on the motion to revoke was consolidated with the termination petitions. The trial court found that, pursuant to statute (§ 17a-112 [j]), the Department of Children and Families had made reasonable efforts to reunify N with her children, but that she was unable or unwilling to benefit from the reunification efforts and that she had failed to achieve such a degree of personal rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of each child, she could assume a responsible position in their lives. The trial court further determined that, in light of N's repeated incidents of drug involvement and domestic violence and the multiple placements each child had endured, it would be in each child's best interests to terminate N's parental rights. The trial court also terminated the parental rights of O and of D's father. On appeal to this court, N claimed that the trial court violated her constitutional right to substantive due process by failing to consider a transfer of guardianship of M and J to O's parents as the least restrictive alternative to the termination of N's parental rights, and that the trial court improperly determined that the termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of the three children. Held :

         1. N could not prevail on her unpreserved claim that the trial court violated her constitutional right to substantive due process by failing to apply the least restrictive placement standard when it considered, and rejected, transferring guardianship of M and J to O's parents; this court assumed that a least restrictive determination was required by the constitution and concluded that the record reflected that this standard was satisfied when, by finding that termination of N's parental rights was in the best interests of M and J, the trial court necessarily found that termination of N's parental rights was the least restrictive permanency plan required to protect the children's best interests.

         2. N failed to demonstrate that the trial court erroneously determined that is was in the best interests of her children to terminate her parental rights:

         a. N failed to demonstrate that transfer of guardianship of M and J to O's parents, rather than terminating N's parental rights and committing M and J to the custody and care of the petitioner, was in the best interests of M and J, as the trial court properly considered evidence that O's parents lived in Florida and would have to relocate to care for M and J, that O's father had a criminal history, and that M and J displayed challenging behaviors that O's mother would not have been able to address.

         b. N's claim that the trial court failed to consider the feelings and attachment of D to N as required by statute (§ 17a-112 [k]) was unavailing, as a review of the entirety of the trial court's decision revealed that it considered all of the required statutory factors and that the it balanced D's feelings toward N against the other factors in determining that termination of her parental rights was in D's best interests.

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

         Renee Bevacqua Bollier, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Michael Besso and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorneys general, for the appellee (petitioner).

         Thomas F. Mitola, for the minor children.

         Alvord, Sheldon and Keller, Js. SHELDON, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.

          OPINION

          [163 Conn.App. 800] SHELDON, J.

          The respondent mother, Nadine D., appeals from the judgments rendered in favor of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, in which the trial court terminated the respondent's parental rights with respect to her three minor children, Daniel N., Molli O. and Joel O.[1] On appeal, the respondent claims that the court (1) violated her substantive due process rights by not properly considering, as the least restrictive alternative to the termination of her parental rights, a transfer of guardianship of Molli and Joel to their paternal grandparents, and (2) ...


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