March 30, 2021

In Re Kiara Liz V. (AC 44264)

TPR, Constitutional Claim, Mental Health Treatment, Parent-Child Bond

Takeaway: In order to use a parent’s absence at trial as a basis in the appeal, the claim needs to be raised at trial, and there needs to be a clear reason provided for their failure to attend.  Additionally, the existence of a parent-child bond is not dispositive of what is in a child’s best interests in determining whether a TPR should be granted.

 Father appealed the judgment terminating his parental rights with respect to his minor child. The court conducted a trial on the TPR petition and Father was not present on the last day of trial. Counsel for Father requested a continuance on the basis of Father’s absence, which the court denied.

The Appellate Court declined to review Father’s unpreserved claim that his right to due process was violated when the trial court denied his request for a continuance, as the record of his claim was inadequate for review under State v. Golding (213 Conn. 233); Father’s reasons for his failure to attend the final day of the trial were vague and unclear, and the Court found that speculation and conjecture have no place in appellate review.

Additionally, the Appellate Court held that the trial court did not err in its determination that the termination of Father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest, as its conclusion was based on its findings related to the seven statutory (§ 17a-112 (k)) factors, which were not challenged in the appeal.  Such factors included Father’s difficulty accepting and understanding his mental illness, his inability to comply with mental health treatment, and his failure to make progress in his parenting abilities. The Court also found that the existence of a bond between Father and the child, although relevant, was not dispositive of a best interest determination, and Father’s claims that he had been appropriate with the child and that she responded to him, did not provide grounds to reverse the trial court’s judgment.