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

It is almost always only following unfortunate circumstances that the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families (the DCYF) petitions the court to terminate the parental rights of a natural parent. The procedural requirements and standard of proof required to terminate parental rights are more stringent than in other civil claims, however, these petitions are frequently granted. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently published an opinion affirming an order by a family court terminating a mother’s parental rights of her seven-year-old daughter.

According to the court’s opinion, the respondent in the recently decided case is a woman who struggled for most of her life with addiction and abuse. The evidence showed that the respondent was abused as a child and driven into drug and alcohol use from a young age. In addition to her addiction, the respondent was involved in abusive relationships throughout her life. When the respondent was pregnant with the child at issue in this case, she and the father of the child were arrested for neglect which resulted in injuries to another child that they shared. As a result of the pending charges, as well as the respondent’s substance abuse problems and failure to have a safe home or obtain any prenatal care for her soon-to-be-born daughter, the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) temporarily took the child from the mother when she was born, and placed her into a foster program.

Although the respondent attempted to make changes in her life and attended several programs for new mothers struggling with parenthood and substance abuse issues, she maintained her relationship with the abusive father of her children, and ultimately was sentenced to prison time for the neglect charge, which interrupted her attempts to gain permanent custody of the child. Based on the ongoing issues, the DCYF sought to permanently terminate her parental rights, arguing that there was not a reasonable probability that the child would be able to safely return to the mother’s care within a reasonable amount of time. The family court ruled that there was clear and convincing evidence that the respondent was an unfit parent, and her rights were terminated.

The respondent appealed the ruling to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, arguing in part that the higher standard of proof required to terminate parental rights, which is clear and convincing evidence of unfitness, was not met at trial. The high court disagreed with the respondent, and ruled that the 63-page family court ruling was supported by ample evidence that the respondent was unwilling or unable to maintain a safe environment for the child, and that her ongoing surreptitious relationship with the father of the child would continue to threaten the child’s safety. As a result of these findings, the respondent’s parental rights have been permanently terminated, and she will be unable to have a relationship with her daughter until the child reaches adulthood.

Find Competent Legal Representation in Termination and Adoption Proceedings

If you or a loved one are facing a parental termination proceeding, or seeking to take custody of a child in a dangerous situation, having a qualified Rhode Island family law attorney at your side can make all of the difference. The skilled family law attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo understand the nuances of child custody and adoption proceedings, and help clients defend their rights when it comes to their children. Call our offices at 401-300-4055 to talk to a Rhode Island family law attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo today.

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