A recent case in the national news about the arrest of 17-year-old Illinois mother accused of abandoning her newborn infant in a trash bin has put a highlight on child abandonment. Child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian or other person in possession of a child either abandons a child without any regard for that child’s physical safety, health or well being, or when the child is not receiving the necessary care for a healthy existence. In Connecticut, child abandonment is a wholly illegal act. However, there are legal ways that both newborn children and older children can safely be relinquished to the state. This process involves the absolute severance of the parental relationship, and results in a complete termination of a child’s parental rights to care for or even see the child that they give up.
Child abandonment can occur in a variety of situations, including:
- Leaving a child with another without first making provisions for the child’s support, and without making meaningful communications with the child for at least three months;
- Abandoning an infant on the side of the road, on a person’s doorstep, in dumpsters or in trash cans;
- Refusing to provide a child with the necessary supervision, care and support;
- Not responding to any notices of state or local child protective hearings;
- Leaving the child alone for a time period that creates a real risk of serious injury and/or harm occurring because of the child being left alone; and
- Making minimal attempts to communicate and support a child.
The Connecticut Termination of Parental Rights Procedure
Parental rights cannot be reinstated once terminated. In order to terminate parental rights, a petition must be filed in the probate court where the child or petitioner resides, and children over the age of 12 must be joined in the petition. The following parties can petition for the termination of parental rights:
- One of both of the parents, including parents who are minors;
- A child’s guardian;
- A duly authorized officer or any child-care agency, children’s home or other comparable institution that has been approved by the Connecticut Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF);
- A person in charge of/having custody of a foundling child; or
- A relative of a child who has been deserted or abandoned by their parent(s).
After the termination of parental rights application has been filed, the probate court must hold a hearing within 30 days. Parents that are part of termination of parental rights petitions have the right to an attorney, and the court must also appoint an attorney to represent the child as a guardian ad litem in the parental rights termination process. An investigation conducted by the DCF is also part of the hearing process. The petitioner must prove that clear and convincing evidence exists that supports the termination of the parent-child relationship, and that a valid ground for termination exists.
The termination of parental rights is a very serious legal decision. If you need legal assistance or representation, you should contact the experienced Fairfield County family law attorneys at our law firm.