In re Ja-Niya B., F04CP12009719A

Decision Date09 February 2016
Docket NumberF04CP12009719A
CourtSuperior Court of Connecticut
PartiesIn re Ja-Niya B. [1]

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Burton A. Kaplan, Senior Judge of the Superior Court.

On September 15, 2015, the petitioner, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), filed a petition pursuant to C.G.S. Section 17a-112 et seq. to terminate the parental rights of Tiffany F., the biological mother of Ja-Niya B. and Ronnie B., the father of Ja-Niya B. On September 22, 2014, the petitioner, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), filed a petition pursuant to C.G.S. Section 17a-112 et seq. to terminate the parental rights of Tiffany F., the biological mother of Jaden D. and John Doe., the father of Jaden D. Ja-Niya B was born on October 17, 2007. Jaden D. was born on July 10, 2010. The petitions were heard together.

With regard to the petition for Jaden D., the mother, Tiffany F was served in hand on October 1, 2014 and the father, John Doe., was served by publication in the Connecticut Post on October 8, 2014. That service was confirmed on October 16, 2014. A default was entered against the father John Doe, on October 16, 2014 when he failed to appear.

With regard to the petition for Ja-Niya B., the mother, Tiffany F., was served abode on September 25, 2015 and the father Ronnie B., was served in hand on September 25, 2015. That service was confirmed on October 13, 2015.

The court is aware of no other proceedings in any court regarding the custody of these children. There is no tribal affiliation. This court has jurisdiction.

With regard to the mother, she has been represented by counsel throughout the proceedings with regard to both children. She has had different counsel at different times but was always represented. Ronnie B., the father of Ja-Niya B., was represented by counsel.

DCF alleges the following grounds for termination of parental rights.

With Regard to Ja-Niya B.

As to the Mother, Tiffany F.

Ground B1--Failure to Rehabilitate: The child or youth has been found in a prior proceeding to have been neglected, uncared for, or abused, and the respondent mother has failed to achieve the degree of personal rehabilitation that would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time considering the age and needs of the child or youth, she could assume a responsible position in the life of the child or youth.

As to the father, Ronnie B.

Ground A--Abandonment: The child has been abandoned by the parent in the sense that the parent has failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child. Ground B1-Failure to Rehabilitate: The child or youth has been found in a prior proceeding to have been neglected, uncared for, or abused, and the respondent father has failed to achieve the degree of personal rehabilitation that would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of the child or youth, he could assume a responsible position in the life of the child or youth.

Ground C--Acts of Omission or Commission: The child or youth has been denied, by reason of act or acts by the parent of commission or omission; including but not limited to, sexual molestation or exploitation, severe physical abuse or a pattern of abuse, the care, guidance or control necessary for his/her physical, educational, or moral or emotional well-being.

On November 2, 2016 the petition was amended to consent only as to Ronnie B.

With regard to Jaden D.

As to the mother, Tiffany F.

Ground B1--Failure to Rehabilitate: The child or youth has been found in a prior proceeding to have been neglected, uncared for, or abused, and the respondent mother has failed to achieve the degree of personal rehabilitation that would encourage the belief that within a reasonable time, considering the age and needs of the child or youth, she could assume a responsible position in the life of the child or youth.

As to the father, John Doe

Ground A--Abandonment: The child has been abandoned by the parent in the sense that the parent has failed to maintain a reasonable degree of interest, concern or responsibility as to the welfare of the child.

Ground D--No Ongoing Parent/Child Relationship: There is no ongoing parent-child or parent-youth relationship with respect to the father that ordinarily develops as a result of the parents having met on a day-to-day basis, the physical, emotional, moral, and educational needs of the child or youth, and to allow further time for the establishment or reestablishment of the parent-child or parent-youth relationship would be detrimental to the best interest of the child or youth.

The trial on the Termination of Parental Rights was scheduled before this court on November 2, 2015. At 10:00 A.M. the case was called in court. The father of Jaden had been previously defaulted for failure to appear. The father of Ja-Niya B., Ronnie B., appeared with counsel. He was advised of his rights pursuant to In Re Yasiel R . He then consented to the termination of his parental rights. The consent was canvassed and accepted by this court. Mother's counsel was present at 10:00 A.M. but the mother was not present. Mother's attorney was excused during the consent canvass so he could try to locate the mother. After the consent was canvassed and accepted, the grounds for Termination of Parental Rights with regard to Ronnie B. were amended to consent only.

At 10:20 A.M. the court recalled the case. Mother's counsel advised the court that he was unable to contact the mother by phone. He also advised the court that the mother did not keep an appointment with him on Saturday, 2 days before this trial was scheduled to commence. The mother has changed counsel numerous times thus delaying this matter and the trial. Mother's present counsel came into this case in August 2015. The trial was scheduled to start in September 2015. Since counsel had just been retained, the trial was rescheduled until November 2nd all day and Wednesday November 4th from 2:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M. if necessary to give him time to prepare. The understanding was that in light of the past delays, the trial would go forward on those dates at the times set. The mother was in court when the dates for trial were given.

The trial was started in the absence of the mother. Exhibits were admitted by agreement. All the State's witnesses were present. The DCF social worker testified and counsel for the mother and children were given the opportunity to cross examine. After the State rested its case, no further evidence was offered by mother's attorney or the attorney for the children. The trial concluded in the morning after final arguments of counsel.

On December 1, 2015, counsel for the mother filed a motion entitled " Motion to Open Evidence" dated November 30, 2015. Although the motion misstates the date for trial from November 2, the actual date, to November 3rd the basis of the motion was the mother thought the trial was to start on November 2nd at 2:00 P.M. not 10:00 A.M. as scheduled. The motion was docketed for December 12th and heard by the court.

The mother testified that she thought the trial was to start on November third at 2:00 P.M. She read a phone text sent October 29, 2015 allegedly (no copy of the text was offered) from one of her counselors, Karen, at Child Guidance stating the trial was to start on November 2nd at 2:00 P.M. The message also stated the mother should check with the court and confirm the date. The mother stated she never called the court or her attorney to confirm the date. The mother also testified she appeared in the courthouse on November 2nd at 1:55 P.M. She sat in the lobby and did not speak to anyone. She stated her mother called her on her cell phone and told her the trial was in the morning. There was no testimony as to how the respondent's mother knew when the trial was and not the mother. The mother then left the courthouse without speaking to anyone. She did not call her attorney. The motion states " On the morning of November 3, 2015 (should be November 2nd) the undersigned left respondent-Mother several phone messages." There is no question the mother's cell phone was working because the mother testified that her mother called her on the cell phone when respondent mother appeared at the courthouse at 1:55 P.M. There was no testimony that the mother returned or attempted to return her attorney's phone call from that morning.

On November 2nd the date of the trial, the court noted that the mother was present when the trial dates were previously given. The file reflected notice of the dates was sent to the mother and not returned. On November 2nd counsel for the mother was given opportunities to contact the mother prior to trial. He stated the mother did not answer her cell phone. He also stated he was to meet with the mother on Friday, October 30th but had to reschedule for Saturday, October 31st. The mother did not keep that appointment. The mother stated she went to work that day. She also testified that she went to work on the morning of November 2nd. She stated she is not allowed to have her cell phone with her at work. According to the motion she contacted her attorney late in the morning of November 3rd from work where she had testified she could not use her cell phone.

The motion states that the " Respondent-Mother's biological mother appeared at the clerk's office at 2:00 P.M. The mother testified that she and not her mother appeared at the courthouse. The motion further states " the Respondent--Mother finally contacted the undersigned late in the morning of November 3, 2015 from her place of work. She indicated that ...

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