Emmanuel M., In re

Decision Date02 August 1994
Citation648 A.2d 904,43 Conn.Supp. 108
CourtConnecticut Superior Court
PartiesIn re EMMANUEL M. *

HANDY, Judge.

On January 11, 1993, the petitioner, the commissioner of the department of children and youth services, now the department of children and families (DCF) filed an affidavit seeking an order of temporary custody and coterminous petitions against the respondent mother and father, alleging grounds for commitment to DCF, and for the termination of parental rights of the respondents regarding Emmanuel M.

The coterminous petitions allege that the minor child is neglected in that: (1) the child has been abused, in that he has had injuries inflicted on him other than by accidental means: (2) the child has injuries that are at variance with the history given of them and is in a condition which is the result of maltreatment; (3) the child has been neglected, in that he is denied proper care and attention, physically, and is being permitted to live under conditions, circumstances and associations injurious to his well-being.

The termination petition itself is based on General Statutes § 17a-112(b)(3) and (4) as to both respondents. That statutory language specifies termination if "(3) the child has been denied, by reason of an act or acts of parental commission or omission, the care, guidance or control necessary for his physical, educational, moral or emotional well-being. Nonaccidental or inadequately explained serious physical injury to a child shall constitute prima facie evidence of acts of parental commission or omission sufficient for the termination of parental rights; or (4) there is no ongoing parent-child relationship, which means the relationship that ordinarily develops as a result of a parent having met on a day to day basis the physical, emotional, moral and educational needs of the child and to allow further time for the establishment or reestablishment of such parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interest of the child...."

The statutory authority for a coterminous petition is found in General Statutes § 46b-129 regarding neglect and in § 17a-112 regarding the termination of parental rights.

I PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The minor child, Emmanuel M., was born on December 17, 1989. His biological mother, Doris M., is the sister of the respondent father. His biological father's identity is unknown. On November 2, 1990, the respondents adopted him through proceedings in the New London Probate Court.

On January 3, 1990, Emmanuel was admitted to the naval hospital at the U.S. submarine base in Groton (naval hospital) with multiple injuries. According to hospital records, Emmanuel had "two bruises to head, one on frontal area, one on left parietal region, a burn on the left ear and on the left side of the face, a second to third degree burn to his right thigh, bruising to his right and left upper arms, a spiral fracture of the right femur and multiple scars on his body."

Subsequent to this admission, on January 3, 1993, the hospital staff treating Emmanuel felt that "due to multiple abrasions and contusions and delay in treatment, abuse is suspected." Following hospital policy and procedure, DCF was called by hospital personnel to report an allegedly abused child. DCF filed a coterminous petition eight days later, on January 11, 1993.

II

BURDEN OF PROOF AND PROCEDURE TO FOLLOW

A PROCEDURE ON PETITIONS

When neglect and termination proceedings are coterminously filed, the court is required to proceed in three separate stages 1

Adjudication of the Neglect Petition

The court must determine, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, if the child has been neglected or uncared for as of the date the petition was filed or last amended. In re Juvenile Appeal (84-AB), 192 Conn. 254, 263, 471 A.2d 1380 (1984). If the petitioner's evidence does not support such a finding, then both petitions must be dismissed since they are predicated on the same alleged facts. If the court finds the child to have been neglected or uncared for, disposition is deferred until a decision is made on the termination petition.

Adjudication of the Termination Petition

The court must determine next whether the proof provides clear and convincing evidence that any pleaded ground exists to terminate the parents' rights, as of the date of the filing of the petition or as of the date of its last amendment. If no such ground for termination is found, the court must proceed on the neglect petition and consider an appropriate disposition. If at least one alleged ground to terminate is found, however, the court must move on to the third stage.

Disposition of Both of the Petitions

If grounds have been found to adjudicate the child neglected or uncared for, and to terminate parental rights, applying the respective standards of proof, the court must then consider whether the facts as of the last day of trial establish, by clear and convincing evidence, after consideration of the factors enumerated in § 17a-112(d), as amended, that termination is in the child's best interest. If the court does not find that the child's best interest would be served by terminating parental rights, it must return to, and dispose of, the neglect petition. If the court does find that termination serves the child's best interest, an order shall enter terminating parental rights.

B STANDARDS OF PROOF

A fair preponderance of the evidence standard of proof is the proper standard in neglect proceedings. In re Juvenile Appeal (84-AB), supra, 192 Conn. at 264, 471 A.2d 1380.

With regard to "termination of parental rights," that term is statutorily defined as "the complete severance by court order of the legal relationship, with all its rights and responsibilities, between the child and his parent or parents so that the child is free for adoption except it shall not affect the right of inheritance of such child or the religious affiliation of such child." See General Statutes §§ 17a-93(e) and 45a-707(g). Termination of parental rights is a judicial matter of exceptional gravity and sensitivity. Anonymous v. Norton, 168 Conn. 421, 430, 362 A.2d 532 (1975). Termination of parental rights is the ultimate interference by the state in the parent-child relationship and, although such judicial action may be required under certain circumstances, the natural rights of the parents in their children "undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection." Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 1212, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972); In re Juvenile Appeal (Anonymous), 177 Conn. 648, 671, 420 A.2d 875 (1979).

Both the child and the parents have a constitutionally protected interest in the integrity of the family. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982). The rights of parents to the custody of their children is an important principle that has constitutional dimensions. In re Juvenile Appeal (Docket No. 10155), 187 Conn. 431, 435, 446 A.2d 808 (1982).

The constitutional guarantee of due process of law requires that the statutory grounds for termination of parental rights be established by "clear and convincing evidence," not merely a fair preponderance of the evidence. Santosky v. Kramer, supra, 455 U.S. at 769, 102 S.Ct. at 1403. Both § 17a-112(b) and Practice Book § 1049 mandate the standard of proof as "clear and Termination of parental rights proceeds in two stages: adjudication and disposition. The adjudicatory stage involves the issue of whether the evidence presented established the existence of one or more of the statutory grounds as of the date and petition was filed or last amended. In re Juvenile Appeal (84-AB), supra, 192 Conn. at 262, 471 A.2d 1380; In re Nicolina T., 9 Conn.App. 598, 602, 520 A.2d 639, cert. denied, 203 Conn. 804, 525 A.2d 519 (1987); In re Luke G., 40 Conn.Supp. 316, 324, 498 A.2d 1054 (1985). Only upon establishment of one or more of the statutory grounds may inquiry be made regarding the ultimate best interest of the child. Since § 17a-112(b) sets forth the statutory grounds for termination in the disjunctive, however, one ground only need be established for the granting of the petition. In re Juvenile Appeal (84-BC), 194 Conn. 252, 258, 479 A.2d 1204 (1984); In re Nicolina T., supra, 9 Conn.App. at 602, 520 A.2d 639.

convincing evidence." In re Juvenile Appeal (84-3), 1 Conn.App. 463, 473 A.2d 795 (1984).

III FINDINGS OF FACT

Trial was held on the petition on September 17, September 24 and October 1, 1993. At trial, the petitioner introduced testimony and exhibits through the following witnesses: Joseph E. Lellman, M.D., emergency room physician at the naval hospital; Robert D. Meier, Ph.D., psychologist; Phil Fazzino, youth officer for the New London police department; Michael A. Nelken, M.D., psychiatrist; Elizabeth Ball, DCF investigation worker; and Lorraine Semmelrock, DCF treatment social worker.

The respondent mother introduced testimony and exhibits through Lucille Flowers, a family friend who formerly lived with the respondents and the child. No other party presented any witnesses.

All parties stipulated to exhibits of a series of seven photographs of the minor child at the time he was seen in the emergency room of the naval hospital. The parties also submitted a written stipulation to facts, dated September 17, 1993, which provided this court with the following:

(1) Emmanuel M. was born December 17, 1989, to Doris M., sister of the respondent, Carlos M. The identity of his biological father is unknown. On November 2, 1990, Emmanuel M. was adopted by the respondents, Martha and Carlos M.; (2) On January 3, 1993, Emmanuel M. was admitted by his mother and father to the naval hospital with a spiral facture of the right femur, bruises to the forehead and top of the head, bruising to the right and left upper arms, bruising on the back, abrasions to the left ear and left side of his face, second...

To continue reading

Request your trial
31 cases
  • In re Meagan B., No. F04-CP02-005358-A (CT 8/31/2005)
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 31, 2005
    ...(1979); In re Quanitra M., 60 Conn.App. 96, 102, 758 A.2d 863, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 903, 762 A.2d 909 (2000); In re Emmanuel M., 43 Conn.Sup. 108, 113, 648 A.2d 904, (1993), aff'd, 35 Conn.App. 276, 278, 648 A.2d 881, cert. denied, 231 Conn. 915, 648 A.2d 151 (1994); In re Nicolina T., 9......
  • In re Anthony J., No. H12-CP03-009426-A (CT 2/1/2006), H12-CP03-009426-A
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • February 1, 2006
    ...(1979); In re Quanitra M., 60 Conn.App. 96, 102, 758 A.2d 863, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 903, 762 A.2d 909 (2000); In re Emmanuel M, 43 Conn.Sup. 108, 113, 648 A.2d 904, (1993), aff'd, 35 Conn.App. 276, 278, 648 A.2d 881, cert. denied, 231 Conn. 915, 648 A.2d 151 (1994); In re Nicolina T., 9 ......
  • In re Trinity, No. H12-CP02-008295-A (CT 4/7/2006)
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • April 7, 2006
    ...(1979); In re Quanitra M., 60 Conn.App. 96, 102, 758 A.2d 863, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 903, 762 A.2d 909 (2000); In re Emmanuel M., 43 Conn.Sup. 108, 113, 648 A.2d 904, (1993), aff'd, 35 Conn.App. 276, 278, 648 A.2d 881, cert. denied, 231 Conn. 915, 648 A.2d 151 (1994); In re Nicolina T., 9......
  • In re Tre N., No. T11-CP03-011754-A (Conn. Super. 5/25/2006)
    • United States
    • Connecticut Superior Court
    • May 25, 2006
    ...(1979); In re Quanitra M., 60 Conn.App. 96, 102, 758 A.2d 863, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 903, 762 A.2d 909 (2000); In re Emmanuel M., 43 Conn.Sup. 108, 113, 648 A.2d 904, (1993), aff'd, 35 Conn.App. 276, 278, 648 A.2d 881, cert. denied, 231 Conn. 915, 648 A.2d 151 (1994); In re Nicolina T., 9......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT