There is probably nothing more devastating to a parent than not being able to maintain a close relationship with their child. But custody battles are common in family law cases, and protective services may become involved and make recommendations they feel are in the child’s bests interests.
When the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) becomes involved in your life, your rights as a parent may be in jeopardy. Even if the DCF agent says they are on your side, you’ll want to use extreme caution in your interactions with this agency to protect the rights of you and your children.
What is Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut?
In most U.S. states, the termination of parental rights means the same thing. The legal relationship between you and your child is completely severed by the court. If the rights of just one parent are terminated, the other parent becomes the minor’s sole legal parent. The child could also be adopted by a stepparent at this point.
How Your Parental Rights Can Be Terminated in Connecticut
A termination of parental rights is not the same thing as a custody action. Just because one parent has sole physical custody doesn’t mean that the other doesn’t have parental rights and responsibilities.
It’s important to note that your parental rights can only be terminated through a court order. This is often triggered by a DCF investigation. And the termination can happen by consent or without consent.
Termination of Parental Rights by Consent
One of the ways your parental rights can be terminated is if you agree to it. Since you are also giving up your responsibility to support your children, the court must also determine that this is in your children’s best interests. This is a permanent solution to what is usually a temporary problem and not something we recommend.
Termination of Parental Right Without Consent
The other way the state can terminate your parental rights is without your consent. This is more common. The petitioning party must present clear and convincing evidence to prove that the termination is in the child’s best interests.
The Parental Rights Termination Process
The Petitioner will file a request to terminate your parental rights in the probate court where the petitioner or child resides. If the child is over the age of 12, they must be joined in the petition. The parties having the ability to serve as petitioners include the child’s other parent or guardian, a DCF or another child-care agent, or the relative of a child who has been abandoned or deserted by a parent.
The probated court will hold a hearing within 30 days of the petition’s filing. If you receive such a petition, it’s not only vital that you file an answer by the deadline but that you also attend the hearing to defend your parental rights. A seasoned lawyer can help you build a strong and convincing case that addresses the Petitioner’s concerns.
Is Reinstatement of Parental Rights in Connecticut Possible?
In most cases, the termination of parental rights in Connecticut is permanent. Some states have passed legislation allowing the courts to reinstate parental rights if children remain in the foster care system. So far, Connecticut isn’t one of those states.
However, if the child has not been adopted and the court believes it is in the best interest of the child, it may be possible to get a Motion to Open or Set Aside the judgment or get a petition for a new trial. In general, a motion must be filed within four months of the judgment. The only time a judgment can be opened after four months is when it can be shown that the judgment was obtained in the absence of consent, by fraud, or due to a mutual mistake.
Speak With a Qualified Connecticut DCF Attorney
The termination of parental rights is a serious legal step that will impact you and your children for many years to come. If this is even a possibility, you need experienced legal counsel advocating for your interests sooner rather than later.
Time is of the essence with DCF cases. Parents who procrastinate often regret not taking action as soon as DCF enters the scene. At The Christie Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling all types of Connecticut DCF cases. Our knowledgeable and compassionate DCF attorney will fight for your parental rights and the best interests of your children. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.