Connecticut Appellate Court
August 3, 2010
In this appeal of a consolidated neglect and termination of parental rights trial, the Appellate Court held that the trial court erroneously found that the father neglected a particular child but that the respondent mother did not. The Court, citing to In re David L., 54 Conn. App. 185 (1999), reasoned that it is not possible, within the framework of child protection law, to find that only one custodial parent neglected a child. The concept of “neglect” deals with the status of the child at the time the petition is filed. Moreover, ”[t]he statutes and rules of practice . . . do not afford a parent in a neglect proceeding the right to require the trial court to adjudge each parent’s blameworthiness for a child’s neglect.”
Secondly, the Court held that the trial court improperly applied an elevated standard of proof for a subordinate fact underlying a required element in the termination petition. Specifically, the trial court appeared to require that DCF prove the mother and abusive father remaining living together in order to support DCF’s claim that the mother failed to rehabilitate. The Court referenced criminal cases for the proposition that while each element of the crime (or in this case, the TPR petition) must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that not every evidentiary finding must be held to this standard.
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