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In re Kadon M.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 21, 2019

IN RE KADON M. [*]

          Argued September 6, 2019

         Procedural History

         Petition by the Commissioner of Children and Families to adjudicate the respondents’ minor child neglected, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, Juvenile Matters, where the court, C. Taylor, J., adjudicated the child neglected and ordered a period of six months protective supervision with custody vestedin the respondent father; thereafter, the court, Dannehy, J., sustained an order of temporary custody vesting custody of the minor child in the petitioner; subsequently, the court Dannehy, J., denied the ex-parte motion of the attorney for the minor child to appoint a guardian ad litem; thereafter, the court, Hoffman, J., denied the oral motion of the attorney for the minor child to appoint a guardian ad litem and, following a hearing, granted the motion filed by the petitioner to open and modify the dispositive order of protective supervision, and transferred guardianship of the minor child to his paternal grandmother, and the respondent mother appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Stein M. Helmrich, for the appellant (respondent mother).

          Sara Nadim, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were William Tong, attorney general, and Benjamin Zivyon, assistant attorney general, for the appellee (petitioner).

          Kristen Wolf, for the minor child.

          Elgo, Moll and Devlin, Js.

          OPINION

          DEVLIN, J.

         The respondent mother[1] appeals from the judgment of the trial court transferring guardianship of her son, Kadon M., to his paternal grandmother. On appeal, the respondent claims that the trial court improperly denied the oral motion of the attorney for Kadon M. to appoint a guardian ad litem.[2] We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. Kadon M. is a seven year old child currently under the care of his paternal grandmother. On June 26, 2017, the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, filed a neglect petition on behalf of Kadon M. due to concerns regarding medical and physical neglect and the respondent’s transiency. Following a trial, the court, C. Taylor, J., determined that Kadon M. was neglected and ordered a period of six-month protective supervision with custody vested in Kadon M.’s father on March 5, 2018.

         Subsequently, on June 8, 2018, Kadon M.’s father was incarcerated and, as a result, the petitioner initiated a ninety-six-hour hold on Kadon M. On that day, Kadon M. was placed with his paternal grandmother. A few days later, on June 12, 2018, the trial court, Dannehy, J., issued an order of temporary custody, giving legal custody of Kadon M. to the petitioner.

         Several months later, on December 13, 2018, the petitioner filed a motion to open and modify the dispositive order of protective supervision to a transfer of guardianship to Kadon M.’s paternal grandmother. No agreement was reached between the parties to transfer guardianship of Kadon M. and a trial was scheduled for January 7, 2019. On January 4, 2019, the Friday before the commencement of trial, the court-appointed attorney for Kadon M., Attorney Kristen Wolf, filed an ex parte motion for the appointment of a guardian ad litem. In the motion, Attorney Wolf asserted that a guardian ad litem “[was] necessary to protect and ensure that the best interests of the minor child, [Kadon M.], are being met.” The court, Dannehy, J., denied this motion and, in doing so, noted that it was improper to file a motion for a guardian ad litem on the eve of trial.

         On January 7, 2019, a trial was held on the petitioner’s motion to open and modify the dispositive order of protective supervision to a transfer of guardianship. Before evidence was presented, Attorney Wolf orally moved to appoint a guardian ad litem. At this time, Attorney Wolf explained that, during a meeting with Kadon M. on the Friday before trial, he told her that he preferred to be with his mother, rather than with his paternal grandmother and father. According to Attorney Wolf, this position represented a sudden change because Kadon M. had frequently and consistently asserted his preference to remain with his paternal grandmother and father. Indeed, counsel for the petitioner stated that Kadon M., as recently as December 27, 2018, informed one of the petitioner’s social workers that “he wished to remain with his grandmother.” In response to this shift in opinion, Attorney Wolf explained: “I actually filed a motion for a guardian ad litem to investigate the reason for the change and also to investigate whether or not his change in position is in his best interest. . . . I’ve been meeting with him readily all along, that his position changed so drastically kind of at the last minute, and I’m not sure that I can adequately represent to the court-I can adequately represent his position tothe court, but I can’t adequately represent whether or not that’s in his best interest.” Nonetheless, despite these concerns, Attorney Wolf reaffirmed: “I know what my client wants, and I’m prepared to represent that. But if the court asks me whether or not that’s in my client’s best interest, I’m not sure that I can answer that question, which is why I would like the court to appoint a guardian ad litem to weigh in on that fact.” The court, Hoffman, J., denied the oral motion, stating that “the court can find what’s [in the] best interest of the child,” and the trial proceeded.

         During trial, the court heard testimony regarding the caretaking qualifications of the respondent as compared with the paternal grandmother. The evidence indicated that although the respondent completed her therapy for intimate partner violence, she had not completed her court-ordered substance abuse and mental health treatment. Moreover, as the court later stressed, there was considerable testimony regarding an incident during which the respondent visited the daycare of Kadon M.’s half brother. Despite the fact that Kadon M.’s half brother was committed to the petitioner’s custody and the respondent was not allowed to visit him unsupervised, she apparently collaborated with the father of Kadon M.’s half brother to enter through a locked back door and briefly visit her son. The court’s concern here was compounded by the fact that, at the time of the daycare incident, the respondent was subject to a protective order prohibiting contact with the father of Kadon M.’s half brother. This order was issued in response to incidents of domestic violence and assault committed against the respondent by the father of Kadon M.’s half brother. The court also heard testimony of a strong and compassionate relationship between the paternal ...


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