In re Justin F.

Conn. App.

June, 2009


Parents, proceeding pro se, filed numerous appeals arising out of the trial court’s denial of their motion to revoke commitment, the denial of their right to be heard on certain motions, and the denial of their motion for contempt. The parents also claimed on appeal that the “specific steps” orders violated their constitutional rights and that the court improperly allowed the Department to determine the nature and extent of family visitation. The appellate court dealt quickly with the majority of the parents’ claims, determining that their arguments were either not preserved or were inadequately briefed. Of note, however, is the appellate court’s treatment of the parents’ claims regarding visitation.

The trial court, in the wake of numerous motions and orders dealing with family visitation, determined that the commissioner should perform her “statutory duty” pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-10a to determine extent of parents’ visitation with their children. The court determined that such determinations are the Department’s “responsibility.” On appeal, the parents’ claimed that the trial court wrongfully ceded authority to the Department to determine the visitation schedule. The appellate court noted that § 17a-10a requires the Department to ensure that each child in its custody is provided family visitation, the frequency of which shall be based on a consideration of the child’s best interests, and that each child’s visitation plan be incorporated into the family treatment plan. The court also pointed out that “elsewhere in the statutory scheme” parents are provided the right to request an administrative hearing should they disagree with a provision of a treatment plan. The court noted that the record did not include information that the parents had availed themselves of the administrative hearing process.

The implication of the court’s short analysis of the parents’ claim is that a parent must exhaust his or her administrative remedies prior to filing a visitation motion with the court. The decision does not include an analysis of the jurisdictional question [see e.g., In re Leighton V., 1998 WL 738057 (holding that the juvenile court has jurisdiction over all proceedings concerning uncared for, neglected or dependent children and youth within this state); see also In re Christopher M. 2008 WL 249744 (holding that a father did not have to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to bringing a motion regarding visitation in the juvenile court)]. Additionally, this case did not deal with, nor did the the appellate court address, whether a child or youth may seek immediate judicial relief regarding requests for visitation and other aspects of their care and treatment, as provided by the plain language of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-16(i)( see also In re Leighton V., 1998 WL 738057 *2-3).

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