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Rhode Island Supreme Court Affirms Termination of Father’s Parental Rights

In Rhode Island, family courts address many issues relating to families and children, including divorce, custody, child support, and adoption matters. Some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching issues addressed by family courts are proceedings initiated to terminate the parental rights of a natural parent. To terminate a parent’s rights, a family court must find by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit to have rights over their child, and that the termination of such rights is in the best interest of the child. In a recently decided appeal, the Rhode Island Supreme Court discussed the requirements for termination of parental rights, and ultimately ruled that a father’s rights were properly terminated by a family court.

In the recently decided case, the respondent is the father of a minor child who had been placed in foster care shortly after her birth in 2014 because the parents were “red-flagged” by the state Department of Youth and Families for instances of abuse against other children in their care. Between 2014 and 2016, the Department instituted a plan for the respondent to demonstrate his fitness to safely and effectively parent his child in order to assume custody of the child. According to testimony from the termination proceedings, the respondent repeatedly refused to cooperate with the Department in formulating and following through on the reunification plan. The respondent would have some visitation with the child. However, he did not attend classes as requested by the Department, and he was repeatedly incarcerated for short periods of time and unable to attend to the reunification plan or visit the child.

After months of attempted reunification, the Department ultimately sought to terminate the respondent’s parental rights so that the child could be adopted into the foster home where she had lived most of her life. The Department argued that the respondent was unfit to parent the child as he was uncooperative with the Department plan and unable to keep himself out of jail long enough to have a relationship with his daughter. The Department also argued that the child was happy in her foster family and that they desired to adopt her into their home permanently if she was placed up for adoption.

The family court ruled, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court ultimately agreed, that the father was not fit to parent his daughter. Although the father argued that it was the mother and his relationship with her that was the real threat to the child (and that he had permanently terminated such relationship), the courts were not convinced that he would be able to parent the child. Additionally, the evidence that the child thrived in her foster home environment and would benefit greatly by being adopted by her foster parents weighed heavily on the court’s decision. By the time the supreme court was ready to rule on the appeal last year, the child had already been adopted and was doing well with her new family. As a result of this, as well as the lack of evidence of any mistakes made by the family court in its initial ruling, the decision to terminate the father’s parental rights was affirmed.

Competent Legal Counsel is Essential in Parental Termination and Adoption Proceedings

If you or a loved one is seeking to adopt a child, facing a parental termination proceeding, or working with the Rhode Island Department of Youth and Families to regain custody of your child, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Having the advice and counsel of a trusted Rhode Island family law attorney from Bilodeau Capalbo can make the difference in your case. Our skilled advocates understand how family court judges reach their decisions, and we can advise your choices and help argue your case to obtain the result you desire. We represent clients in all types of family law proceedings, including divorce, custody, adoption, as well as parental termination proceedings. Contact Bilodeau Capalbo at 401-300-4055 today to schedule a no-obligation consultation and discuss your case.

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