Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Larry D.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 31, 2017

IN RE LARRY D.[*]

          Argued January 3, 2017 [**]

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Conway, J.

          David B. Rozwaski, assigned counsel, for the appellant (respondent father).

          Daniel M. Salton, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Sheldon, Mullins and Flynn, Js.

          OPINION

          FLYNN, J.

         The respondent father appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered in favor of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, terminating his parental rights with respect to his minor son, Larry D.[1] On appeal, the respondent claims that the court violated his due process rights by ordering him to participate in a psychological evaluation without first appointing him counsel and advising him of his rights. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record discloses the following relevant facts, which are uncontested or were found by the trial court, and procedural history. Larry was born in November, 2014. On January 8, 2015, after receiving reports suggesting that Larry's mother, Charla J., was unable to provide Larry with proper care, the petitioner obtained an order granting the petitioner temporary custody of Larry. The petitioner filed a neglect petition that same day. On January 16, 2015, the petitioner cited the respondent into the neglect proceedings as a putative father[2] and obtained an order requiring the respondent to submit to a paternity test.

         The respondent was served with the neglect petition on February 24, 2015, at a residence subsequently determined to be his usual place of abode. Nevertheless, on the March 10, 2015 plea date, the respondent failed to appear and a default was entered against him. That same day, Larry was adjudicated neglected and committed to the care and custody of the petitioner. On August 25, 2015, the petitioner filed a petition to, inter alia, terminate the respondent's parental rights as to Larry; see footnote 1 of this opinion; on grounds of abandonment, failure to rehabilitate, and the lack of an ongoing parent-child relationship.

         The respondent, despite having been properly served, failed to appear at his September 25, 2015 plea hearing on the termination of parental rights petition, and a default was entered against him. As a result, the respondent was not appointed counsel to represent him in the termination proceedings. The respondent again failed to appear at the October 22, 2015 permanency plan hearing. At that hearing, the petitioner obtained an order requiring the respondent to participate in a psychological evaluation. On November 30, 2015, the respondent was incarcerated. After learning of the respondent's incarceration, the court issued a writ of habeas corpus to secure his participation in the psychological evaluation, which was conducted at the courthouse on January 8, 2016, by Ines Schroeder, a forensic psychologist.

         The respondent appeared in court for the first time on February 25, 2016. At that time, the court vacated the default previously entered against the respondent, appointed counsel to represent him in the termination proceedings, and advised him of his rights. Furthermore, the court ordered the defendant to submit to a paternity test, [3] which ultimately established that he was Larry's biological father and resulted in a judgment of paternity being entered on April 7, 2016.

         A trial on the termination petition was held on June 7 and 15, 2016. The respondent was represented by counsel throughout the proceedings. The petitioner presented several exhibits and called multiple witnesses, including Dr. Schroeder, who opined, on the basis of her psychological evaluation of the respondent, that there were a ‘‘number of things'' the respondent needed to address before he could serve as a father figure to Larry, and that it was not in Larry's best interests to wait for the respondent to rehabilitate. The respondent did not object to any of Dr. Schroeder's testimony. Dr. Schroeder's report of her evaluation of the respondent was admitted as a full exhibit by the parties' agreement.

         The court issued a memorandum of decision on June 21, 2016, granting the petition to terminate the respondent's parental rights. The court found that the petitioner had proved by clear and convincing evidence that the Department of Children and Families (department) had made reasonable efforts to locate the respondent and reunify him with Larry and, moreover, that the respondent was unwilling to benefit from those reunification efforts. See General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (1). In particular, the court noted the respondent's continued, deliberate evasion of consistent attempts by the department to engage him in late 2014 and throughout 2015 concerning paternity testing and his visitation rights; indeed, the court found that ‘‘[i]t was only with the commencement of [the respondent's] protracted incarceration on or about November 30, 2015, [that he] bec[a]me responsive to [the department's] inquiries or offers of paternity testing.''

         Next, the court found that the petitioner had proven by clear and convincing evidence all three grounds for termination asserted in the petition. First, with respect to the ground of abandonment; see General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (A); the court began by determining that, under the circumstances of the present case, the fact that the respondent's paternity was not established until ‘‘March or April'' of 2016 did not preclude a finding of abandonment. The court found that, despite Charla J.'s initial suggestion that Edward D. was Larry's father, the respondent ‘‘did in fact perceive himself'' to be the father. The court also noted that the petitioner ‘‘aggressively'' sought paternity testing of the respondent and Edward D., to which the respondent refused to submit in order to avoid arrest and incarceration on outstanding criminal warrants. As to whether the respondent's conduct amounted to abandonment, the court observed that, so long as the respondent was free in the community rather than incarcerated, ‘‘he was content to be perceived as Larry's father without any of the responsibilities or consequences attendant to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.