In re C.S., 22-AP-065

Case DateJune 17, 2022
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

In re C.S., Juvenile (J.F., Father*)

No. 22-AP-065

Supreme Court of Vermont

June 17, 2022

In the case title, an asterisk (*) indicates an appellant and a double asterisk (**) indicates a cross-appellant. Decisions of a three-justice panel are not to be considered as precedent before any tribunal.



In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:

As part of a child-protection proceeding, the family division established a permanent guardianship for juvenile C.S. and transferred custody of C.S. to guardians, her maternal grandparents. Father appeals a family division order denying father's motion to modify the parent-child contact provisions of the permanent guardianship. Father argues that the family division erred in concluding that father failed to demonstrate there was a substantial change of material circumstances. We affirm.

C.S. was born in July 2011. She was adjudicated a child in need of care or supervision (CHINS) in June 2015 pursuant to mother's stipulation, and the court granted custody to the Department for Children and Families (DCF). Father was not involved in C.S.'s life at the time and did not participate in the proceedings. DCF moved to create a permanent guardianship with C.S.'s maternal grandparents. Father was served by publication and did not attend the hearing. In December 2017, the family division established a permanent guardianship and transferred custody of C.S. to guardians. See 14 V.S.A. § 2664(a) (providing that family division may establish permanent guardianship as part of child-protection proceeding). The accompanying parent-child contact order provided that C.S. could visit with either parent "at the discretion of [C.S.] and permanent guardians, keeping [C.S.'s] best interests in mind." The order further allowed written, telephone, and electronic contact as agreed to by the parties in C.S.'s best interests and as permitted by schedules. The court deleted the following sentence from the contact order: "In no event shall [C.S.] be compelled to participate in visitation with either parent if she is not willing." The matter was then transferred to the probate division.

In January 2021, father moved to modify parent-child contact seeking written, telephone, electronic, and in-person contact. Guardians separately filed a motion seeking to relocate to Tennessee. The probate division denied father's request and granted guardians' request. Father appealed the denial of his motion to the family division. See 14 V.S.A. § 2664(c) (providing that appeal is de novo to family division). Before the family division, father sought to modify the


contact provisions so that his contact was not discretionary and provided him with a right to contact.

Following a hearing, the family division found the following. Father was incarcerated and had very limited contact with C.S. during the first four years...

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