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Rhode Island Supreme Court Upholds Termination of Mother’s Rights in Case of 3-year-old Daughter

Family court cases often present some of the most difficult legal issues due to the high stakes involved. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently upheld the family court’s decision to terminate parental rights in a Rhode Island child custody case over a 3-year-old child.

According to the court’s opinion, when the daughter was two years old, Department of Children, Youth, and Families (the Department) filed a petition seeking to terminate the mother’s parental rights to her daughter. The Department claimed that the daughter had been in its custody or care for twelve months or more, that the mother had been offered services, and that there was not a substantial probability that the daughter could be returned to the mother within a reasonable period of time.

Evidently, the mother had been hospitalized at least fifteen times and had attempted to commit suicide multiple times. An expert psychologist testified that he diagnosed the mother with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. On appeal, the mother argued that the family court was incorrect in finding the Department made reasonable efforts to provide the mother with services, that the mother was unfit, and that the termination of parental rights was in the best interests of the child.

Biological parents have a right to custody of their children. However, if a parent is found to be unfit, the state may be able to terminate the rights of the biological parents if reasonable efforts have been made to reunify the parent with the child and that it is in the best interests of the child to terminate parental rights. Under Rhode Island law, a parent is deemed unfit if the parent “exhibited behavior or conduct that is seriously detrimental to the child, for a duration” that makes it unlikely for the parent to care for the child “for an extended period of time.”

The family court found that the mother was unfit because she failed to follow through with the treatment, including failing to address her substance abuse and her need for mental health treatment. The court also found the state made reasonable efforts to reunify the mother with the daughter, including arranging visitations, and making referrals to services for substance abuse, mental health treatment, parenting, and others. The court further found that it was in the daughter’s best interests to terminate the mother’s parental rights, because although the court found that the mother clearly loved her daughter, the child would become very upset when she was with her mother, and her mother was unable to care for her. Therefore, the Supreme Court upheld the termination of the mother’s rights.

Contact a Rhode Island Divorce Attorney

If you need legal representation in a divorce case or other family law case, contact an experienced Rhode Island family law attorney. Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC represents clients in Rhode Island in family court cases. Our attorneys can help you make sure that your voice is heard in a settlement agreement, custody arrangement, and any other family law case. We have offices in West Warwick and South Kingstown, Rhode Island, as well as in Connecticut. Call us at 401-300-4055 or fill out our online form to arrange an appointment with a family law attorney today.

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