Termination of Parental Rights by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF)

Posted by Tamar BirckheadJun 03, 2023

In 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Meyer v. Nebraska that each parent has the right to “establish a home and bring up children.” The state, however, has the right to intervene and protect children when the facts and circumstances call for it. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1984, ruled in Schall v. Martin that “if parental control falters, the State must play its part as parens patriae”––that means the state can exercise its power to act as guardian for children who can't care for themselves. Terminating parental rights is part of this power.

The termination of parental rights is serious. We, at Birckhead Law LLC, take it very seriously, too. You can't afford to lose your rights. If your children have been removed as a result of an Order for Temporary Custody (OTC) or if DCF has initiated an investigation, contact us today online or at (203) 805-7851 to schedule a free strategy session.

What Is the Termination of Parental Rights?

The termination of parental rights results in the complete separation of the child and parent. The parent cannot make decisions about or for the child. 

How Are Parental Rights Terminated in Connecticut?

Termination can be voluntary or involuntary. If voluntary, the parent submits a form to the juvenile court providing the reason for the termination. Voluntary does not mean that you can just give up your rights. On the contrary, you usually cannot unless someone else, such as the Department of Children and Families (DCF), filed a petition to terminate your rights or someone else wants to adopt the child.

If involuntary, the process is more complex and contentious. Often, it begins with a report of abuse or neglect by a mandated reporter or a member of the public. Then DCF conducts an investigation and makes a decision about what to do.

If the case advances to the filing of a Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) petition, the state must satisfy a substantial burden of proof. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Santosky v. Kramer that the state must demonstrate that the termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child by “clear and convincing” evidence. This burden is less than the criminal burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt” but more than the civil burden requiring proof “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Upon clear and convincing evidence, the Court can terminate parental rights. 

Once severed, the termination is usually permanent. In some rare cases, reinstatement of parental rights may be possible.

Common Reasons a Parental Rights are Terminated in Connecticut

The reasons for termination are outlined in Connecticut state statutes. That said, common grounds for the termination of parental rights include:

  • Abandonment by the parent;
  • No ongoing parent-child relationship, and it would be detrimental to the child to allow additional time for the establishment of that bond.
  • The parent by acts of commission or omission has denied the child the care needed for their physical, moral or emotional well-being.
  • The court has found the child has been abused, neglected or uncared for.
  • Another child of the same parent who is under the age of seven has previously been found to be abused, neglected or uncared for and the parent's rights were terminated with respect to that child.
  • The parent has committed sexual assault, resulting in the conception of the child.
  • The parent has failed to rehabilitate after their child has been deemed neglected or the parent has failed to follow the court-ordered Specific Steps to facilitate reunification with a child who has been in DCF custody for at least 15 months.

What Are the Consequences of Termination of Parental Rights?

The consequences of parental rights termination are many and include but are not limited to:

  • The loss of the parent-child relationship
  • The loss of the ability to raise the child–loss of child custody
  • No right to visit or speak to the child–loss of visitation rights
  • No right to deny adoption of the child

If the parent whose rights are terminated had been court ordered to pay child support, the parent will no longer be obligated to do so.

Contact a Child Protection Lawyer in Connecticut Today

The laws on the termination of parental rights are complex and every day counts. If you are a parent whose rights may be terminated, seek legal help immediately. The matter is too important to make a mistake, and it's not just your rights on the line, but that of the child's. Our child protection lawyer will advocate for your rights and, in turn, help ensure that your child's best interests are protected. Contact Birckhead Law LLC online or call us at (203) 805-7851 to schedule a free strategy session.