Articles Posted in Child Neglect

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Family court is not a criminal court. Therefore, generally, the family court does not hear cases that involve criminal defendants, nor does it impose criminal penalties on defendants. However, Rhode Island allows some criminal cases with juvenile defendants to be transferred to family court. The state believes that in some situations the family court is better equipped to handle cases involving young people.

Moving a case from criminal court to family court has both pros and cons for defendants. In most cases, the defendant will be given a lesser penalty in family court than they would in a criminal court. This is because the family court is more focused on rehabilitation and will usually order interventions like counseling, and other forms of treatment . Conversely, criminal defendants often have more rights during the process, including a right to counsel, and stricter rules of evidence that the state must follow. Your skilled Rhode Island family law attorney can help you understand how these differences will apply in your situation.

In the case at issue, a juvenile defendant was adjudicated by the family court for delinquency after being found responsible for two counts of second-degree child molestation sexual assault. The victims were under the age of 14. As part of the adjudication, the defendant was required to register as a sex offender.

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After removing three children from the home of their mother, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) petitioned to terminate the parental rights of the mother. The Rhode Island Family Court approved the petition, and the mother appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the Family Court’s decision, which terminated the mother’s parental rights to her children. If you are concerned that your child or another child is being abused, you should contact the Rhode Island DCYF Child Abuse hotline at (800) 742-4453. If you are unjustly being investigated, your parental rights are in jeopardy, or you are seeking custody of a child you are concerned is being abused, you should contact an experienced Rhode Island child custody attorney as soon as possible.

Requirements for Termination of Parental Rights

The law recognizes that parents and children have a strong bond that should only be disturbed in extreme circumstances. The termination of parental rights can only be granted if the state supports its allegations of parental unfitness by clear and convincing evidence. In order to grant the termination, the state must also prove several things. First, DCYF has to show that the children have been out of the custody and care of their mother for at least 12 months. Second, DCYF needs to prove that they have made reasonable efforts to reunite the family, but despite these efforts, reunification would be inappropriate. Finally, the state must show that the termination is in the best interests of the children. Only once those elements have been proven can the judge grant the petition for termination.

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Rhode Island family law is a complex subject, one that often requires a knowledgeable attorney to parse its various nuances. In some instances, Family Court decisions that do not reach an outcome favorable to one party can be appealed. Such were the circumstances surrounding one fairly recent Rhode Island case.

On January 2, 2014, the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) filed a petition in Family Court, alleging that the parents “neglected” and “abused” their daughter. In that petition, DCYF specifically alleged that the parents failed to provide the child with a minimum degree of care, supervision, or guardianship; that the child was without proper parental care and supervision; that the parents inflicted or allowed to be inflicted physical injury upon the child; and that the parents created or allowed to be created a substantial risk of physical injury to the child. This summer, the Rhode Island Supreme Court held that the Family Court erred in finding that the mother abused and neglected the child.

A trial on the petition was held before a justice of the Family Court from June to September of 2014. After having reviewed the testimony and other evidence, the trial justice issued a written decision on November 10, 2014. In that decision, she preliminarily noted that the child suffered an oblique femur fracture to her right leg, which is highly unusual in a non-mobile child.

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