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

The Supreme Court of Rhode Island recently issued a decision in which the court terminated a mother’s parental rights to her son. The mother had her son in 2017 when she was seventeen years old. The mother planned to live with her stepfather who had a history of physical or sexual abuse against a child and had previously been convicted of second-degree child molestation. A Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) investigator told the mother she could not live with her stepfather due to his history. The investigator also said that the mother could not allow contact between the child and her stepfather. The mother then went to live with her mother. However, shortly after that, the mother and the child went to live with her stepfather. The son was removed from the home, and the mother was reportedly unwilling to move from her stepfather’s home.

The mother attended weekly supervised visits with her son. However, it was later discovered that the mother’s stepfather was present during one of the visits. A family court concluded that the mother had not demonstrated an ability to protect her son, and DCYF filed a petition to terminate her parental rights, who had been in DCYF’s care for over twelve months. A family court later terminated the mother’s parental rights. The mother appealed the decision.

Termination of Parental Rights

A parent’s parental rights to his or her child may be terminated in Rhode Island if a family court determines that the parent is unfit by clear and convincing evidence. If a court determines that a parent is unfit, the court must determine whether the termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interests.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the court found that DCYF had made reasonable efforts to reunify the child and the mother, that she failed to comply with the case plans by failing to attend counseling and move out of her stepfather’s house. Thus, the court found that the evidence supported that the mother was unfit due to “her failure to fully engage in the services provided by DCYF and lack of protective capacity.” The court also upheld that it was in the child’s best interests that the mother’s parental rights be terminated. The court found that the child had been in the care of DCYF since shortly after his birth, he had established a familial connection in his foster home, he was in what would be a pre-adoptive home if freed for adoption, he had bonded with his foster family, and was reaching all developmental milestones. Thus, the termination of parental rights would allow the child to have “a safe and nurturing environment in which to live, learn, and grow.”

Rhode Island Family Law Attorneys

If you are facing a Rhode Island family law matter, it is important to consult an experienced attorney. At Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, our Rhode Island family law attorneys maintain close and trusting relationships with our clients, and we have a strong reputation for client satisfaction. Our lawyers are here to listen to your needs and advocate for the solution that you seek. We have offices in West Warwick, South Kingstown, and Hartford. Call us at 401-300-4055 or use our online form to set up an appointment.


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