In re Delilah G.

Decision Date24 August 2022
Docket NumberAC 45058
Citation214 Conn.App. 604,280 A.3d 1168
Parties IN RE DELILAH G.
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

Benjamin M. Wattenmaker, Hartford, assigned counsel, for the appellant (respondent mother).

Matthew C. Eagan, assigned counsel, for the appellee (petitioner).

Bright, C. J., and Elgo and DiPentima, Js.

ELGO, J.

The respondent mother, Amanda L., appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting the petition of the petitioner father, Juan G., to terminate her parental rights with respect to her minor daughter, Delilah G. On appeal, the respondent claims that the court improperly determined that (1) there was no ongoing parent-child relationship between her and Delilah pursuant to General Statutes § 45a-717 (g) (2) (C)1 and (2) she had abandoned Delilah pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (A). We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the respondent's appeal. The petitioner and the respondent met in 2010 in Norfolk, Virginia. In the spring of 2011, the petitioner learned that the respondent was pregnant with Delilah. At the time, the petitioner, who had enlisted in the United States Navy in November, 2007, was preparing to move to California due to a military relocation. In August, 2011, the petitioner moved to San Diego, California, in accordance with the orders he had received from the Navy. Delilah was born in December, 2011, in Oregon while the petitioner was deployed. When the petitioner completed his deployment in March, 2012, he visited the respondent and Delilah in Oregon. Shortly thereafter, in May, 2012, the respondent2 and the petitioner married.3 The respondent and Delilah then moved to San Diego to live with the petitioner. When the petitioner was deployed to the east coast in August, 2013, the family relocated to the Washington, D.C., area.

Throughout their marriage, the respondent and the petitioner's relationship was filled with ongoing problems and domestic violence. In May, 2014, the parties divorced. At that time, Delilah was approximately two and one-half years old. While the divorce was pending, the respondent had physical custody of Delilah and the petitioner had visitation time with Delilah. Later in 2014, a separate custody trial took place. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia issued a custody order on November 14, 2014, granting the petitioner physical custody of Delilah and providing the respondent with visitation rights. At the time the petitioner was granted physical custody of Delilah, she was almost three years old.

Thereafter, on October 9, 2015, both parties agreed to modify the custody and visitation order. Pursuant to the parties’ agreement, and based on the evidence presented, on October 14, 2015, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ordered that "the [respondent] shall have visitation with the minor child on alternate weekends. [The respondent] shall pick up the minor child from her school at the end of the school day on Fridays and drop off the minor child on Sundays at 6 p.m. at the visitor's center on [the] base .... [I]f [the respondent's] visitation with the minor child coincides with a Monday holiday, the minor child shall remain with [the respondent] during the Monday holiday. [The respondent] shall drop off the minor child on Monday at 6 p.m. at the visitor's center on [the] base ...." (Footnote omitted.) At the time this order was issued, Delilah was almost four years old.

In 2015, the petitioner married Sara G., who has four children from a previous marriage. The petitioner and Sara G. also have two children from their marriage.

On September 29, 2016, when Delilah was almost five years old, the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, modified the previous visitation order. The order prescribed that, "during every even number of years, [the respondent] will have the child during Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving will be defined as Tuesday evening to Sunday evening .... [D]uring every odd number of years, [the respondent] will have the child from December 23 to December 30 .... [D]uring the summer, the [respondent] will have the child from the last week of June until the second week of August .... [T]he [petitioner] shall have the child on Father's Day weekend, and the [respondent] shall have the child on Mother's Day weekend ...." The order also permitted the petitioner to relocate to Connecticut. Specifically, the court order provided that the petitioner "shall have permission to relocate to Connecticut, and after [he] has relocated, the [respondent] will have visitation with the minor child, Delilah ... any three day weekend (no school) ...." The order also stated that, "[u]ntil the [petitioner] deploys or relocates out of state, the [respondent] will maintain every other weekend visitation .... [A]fter relocation, the [respondent] is responsible for the pickup of the child and the [petitioner] is responsible for the return of the child ...." Thus, the petitioner maintained custody of Delilah while the respondent maintained visitation rights.

The respondent's last in-person visit with Delilah occurred in February, 2017, before the petitioner moved to Connecticut in March of that year. At the time of that last in-person visit, Delilah was five years old. The respondent continued to live in the Washington, D.C., area until the spring of 2018, at which point she moved back to California.

Delilah currently resides with the petitioner, her step-mother, Sara G., and her seven siblings in Connecticut. She has received behavioral health treatment from Amy Lane, an advanced practice registered nurse, since 2018. Since moving to Connecticut, the petitioner has been deployed twice—once in 2017 and once in 2019—both times for a period of approximately six months.

In February, 2018, the petitioner filed a motion in Connecticut for modification of the custody and visitation order. A hearing on the motion was held at the Superior Court in the judicial district of New London at Norwich on March 29, 2018,4 at which the respondent was not present.5 In a written order, the court found that the respondent had actual notice of the proceeding but had elected not to appear. The court ordered that "[the petitioner] shall maintain sole legal and physical custody of the minor child Delilah .... [The respondent] shall have access at the [petitioner's] discretion following proof of substance abuse counseling, completion of a parenting course and reunification therapy." When this court order was issued, Delilah was six years old.

On March 25, 2019, the petitioner filed the petition to terminate the parental rights of the respondent in the New London Regional Children's Probate Court. At the time the petition was filed, Delilah was seven years old. In the petition, the petitioner alleged: (1) no ongoing parent-child relationship existed between the respondent and Delilah pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (C) ; (2) the respondent had abandoned Delilah pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (A) ; and (3) the respondent had failed to rehabilitate herself pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (D) (i).

A Probate Court study for termination of parental rights (study) was completed on June 13, 2019, by Marcus Hilario, a social worker for the Department of Children and Families (department). The study recommended that the parental rights of the respondent be terminated with respect to Delilah. On January 14, 2020, Hilario completed an addendum to the study (addendum). The addendum also recommended that the respondent's parental rights be terminated.

The petition was transferred to the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters at Waterford. The respondent contested the petition, and a trial was held on April 1, 2021.6 Delilah was nine years old at the time of trial. At the start of trial, counsel for the petitioner withdrew the failure to rehabilitate ground. The court then heard testimony from the petitioner, the respondent, Sara G., and Hilario. Six exhibits were entered into evidence by the petitioner, and five exhibits were entered into evidence by the respondent.7

In its memorandum of decision dated July 28, 2021, the court found that the petitioner had proven, by clear and convincing evidence, the grounds of no ongoing parent-child relationship pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (C) and abandonment pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (A). The court, thus, terminated the parental rights of the respondent as to Delilah, and this appeal followed.

On appeal, the respondent claims that the court improperly determined that (1) there was no ongoing parent-child relationship between her and Delilah pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (C) ; and (2) she had abandoned Delilah pursuant to § 45a-717 (g) (2) (A).

Before considering those claims, we begin by setting forth the legal principles and standards of review that govern our analysis. "[Section] 45a-715 (a) (2) permits a child's guardian, among others, to petition the Probate Court to terminate the parental rights of that child's parent(s). In order to terminate a parent's parental rights under § 45a-717, the petitioner is required to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that any one of the seven grounds for termination delineated in § 45a-717 (g) (2) exists and that termination is in the best interest of the child. ... Those seven grounds are: abandonment, acts of parental commission or omission, no ongoing parent-child relationship, neglect/abuse, failure to rehabilitate, causing the death of another child, or committing a sexual assault that results in the conception of the child." (Citations omitted; footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) In re Jacob W ., 178 Conn. App. 195, 203–204, 172 A.3d 1274 (2017), aff'd, 330 Conn. 744, 200 A.3d 1091 (2019).

"Nonconsensual termination proceedings involve a two step process: an adjudicatory phase and a dispositional phase. ... In the adjudicatory phase, the trial court determines whether one of the...

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    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • August 8, 2023
    ... ... decision" is simply incorrect. If the plaintiff desired ... an independent analysis as to each of the alleged defamatory ... statements, it was its duty as the appellant to seek an ... articulation of the court's memorandum of decision. See, ... e.g., In re Delilah G., 214 Conn.App. 604, 638 n.16, ... 280 A.3d 1168, cert, denied, 345 Conn. 911, 282 A.3d 1277 ... (2022); see also Practice Book § 66-5. The plaintiff ... having failed to do so, we presume that the court properly ... considered all of the allegations before it. See, ... ...
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    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • February 27, 2023
    ... ... trier of fact could have reached a conclusion other than the ... one reached ... [Rather] every reasonable presumption is ... made in favor of the trial court's ruling." ... (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) In ... re Delilah G., 214 Conn.App. 604, 616, 280 A.3d 1168, ... cert, denied, 345 Conn. 911, 282 A.3d 1277 (2022) ...          We now ... turn to the relevant case law regarding the interference ... exception to the no ongoing parent-child relationship ground ... for ... ...
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