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In re Tresin J.

Supreme Court of Connecticut

December 31, 2019

IN RE TRESIN J.[*]

         Argued September 18, 2019

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         Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, Juvenile Matters, and tried to the court, C. Taylor, J.

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

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

         Robinson, C. J., and Palmer, McDonald, Kahn and Ecker, Js.

          OPINION

         ROBINSON, C. J.

         [334 Conn. 315] In this certified appeal, we consider whether the parental rights of a father were properly [334 Conn. 316] terminated for lack of an ongoing parent-child relationship when, at

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the time of the termination trial, the six year old child had no knowledge or memory of his father, who had been incarcerated when the child was two years old. The respondent father, Aceion B., appeals, upon our grant of his petition for certification,[1] from the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the trial court in favor of the petitioner, the Commissioner of Children and Families, which terminated his parental rights as to the child, Tresin J., pursuant to General Statutes § 17a-112 (j) (3) (D).[2] [334 Conn. 317] In re Tresin J., 187 Conn.App. 804, 805-806, 203 A.3d 711 (2019). Relying on the Appellate Court’s decision in In re Carla C., 167 Conn.App. 248, 143 A.3d 677 (2016), the respondent claims that the trial court should have applied the virtual infancy and interference exceptions to the lack of an ongoing parent-child relationship ground for the termination of parental rights because Tresin was only two years old when the respondent’s incarceration separated them, and the circumstances of this case, particularly the deficiencies of Tresin’s mother, rendered contact impossible during his incarceration. In light of our recent explication of these exceptions in In re Jacob W., 330 Conn. 744, 200 A.3d 1091 (2019), we disagree with the respondent’s claims. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

         The record and the Appellate Court’s opinion set forth the following background facts and procedural history. "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

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of marijuana, his probation was revoked,[3] 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."[4] (Footnote in original.) In re Tresin J., supra, 187 Conn.App. at 806, 203 A.3d 711.

         [334 Conn. 318] The Department of Children and Families (department) became involved with Tresin in May, 2015. The department initiated an investigation when it was notified after one of Tresin’s half siblings was not picked up from school on time. The department learned during its investigation that Tresin and his two half siblings were not up to date medically and that Tresin’s mother recently had been evicted and had been experiencing substance abuse difficulties; it referred her to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, but she failed to comply with those programs’ requirements over the ensuing year. Tresin’s mother subsequently failed to arrange mental health evaluations and care for Tresin’s older half sibling, who had been experiencing severe behavioral issues in school over the course of that year. In July, 2016, the department invoked a ninety-six hour hold with respect to Tresin and his two half siblings after Tresin’s mother informed her caseworker that her life was in danger and she planned to flee the state with the children.

          Subsequently, the petitioner "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 [334 Conn. 319] 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 ...


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