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In re Tresin J.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

February 6, 2019

IN RE TRESIN J.[*]

          Argued January 2, 2019

         Procedural History

         Petition by the Commissioner of Children and Families to terminate the respondents' parental rights with respect to their minor child, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, Juvenile Matters, and tried to the court, C. Taylor, J.; judgment terminating the respondents' parental rights, from which the respondent father appealed to this court. Affirmed.

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

          Hannah F. Kalichman, certified legal intern, with whom were Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, and, on the brief, Michael J. Besso, assistant attorney general, and George Jepsen, former attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Alvord and Beach, Js.

          OPINION

          ALVORD, J.

         The respondent father, Aceion B., appeals from the judgment of the trial court terminating his parental rights with respect to his minor child, Tresin J.[1] On appeal, the respondent claims that the trial court erred when it determined, pursuant to General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (D), that no ongoing parent-child relationship exists between the respondent and Tresin. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, as found by the trial court, and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of the respondent's claim. Tresin was born in June, 2011. The respondent last spoke to Tresin in April, 2013, when Tresin was less than two years old. In May, 2013, the respondent was convicted of possession of marijuana, his probation was revoked, [2] and he was sentenced to a term of incarceration. The respondent subsequently was taken into custody by federal authorities and detained for immigration violations. The respondent remained in federal custody until the fall of 2017.

         In July, 2016, the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, filed a neglect petition with respect to Tresin and his two half-siblings, who were in the care of Tresin's mother. In addition, the petitioner obtained an order of temporary custody with respect to all three children.

         In August, 2017, the petitioner filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the respondent. The petitioner alleged that, pursuant to § 17a-112 (j) (3) (D), the respondent had no ongoing parent-child relationship with Tresin. The termination of parental rights trial was held on February 5 and March 9, 2018.

         In a thoughtful memorandum of decision, issued on May 22, 2018, the court found that the petitioner had proved by clear and convincing evidence that there was no ongoing parent-child relationship with respect to the respondent and Tresin. In reaching its conclusion, the court found that ‘‘Tresin does not know who his father is and has no positive parental memories of his biological father.''[3] Additional facts and procedural history will be set forth as necessary.

         We begin by setting forth the standard of review and legal principles that guide our analysis of the respondent's claim. ‘‘Although the trial court's subordinate factual findings are reviewable only for clear error, the court's ultimate conclusion that a ground for termination of parental rights has been proven presents a question of evidentiary sufficiency. . . . That conclusion is drawn from both the court's factual findings and its weighing of the facts in considering whether the statutory ground has been satisfied. . . . On review, we must determine whether the trial court could have reasonably concluded, upon the facts established and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, that the cumulative effect of the evidence was sufficient to justify its [ultimate conclusion]. . . . When applying this standard, we construe the evidence in a manner most favorable to sustaining the judgment of the trial court. . . . To the extent we are required to construe the terms of § 17a-112 (j) (3) [(D)] or its applicability to the facts of this case, however, our review is plenary. . . .

         ‘‘Proceedings to terminate parental rights are governed by § 17a-112. . . . Under [that provision], a hearing on a petition to terminate parental rights consists of two phases: the adjudicatory phase and the dispositional phase. During the adjudicatory phase, the trial court must determine whether one or more of the . . . grounds for termination of parental rights set forth in § 17a-112 [(j)(3)] exists by clear and convincing evidence. The [petitioner] . . . in petitioning to terminate those rights, must allege and prove one or ...


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