Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Stacie Ayn Murphy Corcoran, 2011 graduate of Suffolk University Law School, practicing in Mass. and NH

June 18, 2021

Affirmed in Part, Reverse in Part, Remand

 

  • Whether the court erred in terminating parental rights because they failed to correct conditions that led to the finding within 12 months.

 

In terminating parental rights, DCYF must prove a statutory ground beyond a reasonable doubt and that termination for the welfare of the child is in their best interest.  Parental rights for S.A. and B.T. were terminated for unsanitary conditions, inadequate nutrition, improper supervision and inappropriate and violent discipline. Prior to termination, the court found the mother was partially compliant with DCYF “case monitoring and management” and “referred services access” but was not consistently addressing her mental health issue and continued to demonstrate “poor decision making. At first, A.G’s father was granted sole responsibility which he lost when he gave the mother unsupervised visitation and A.G. was placed out-of-home and the mother’s rights were terminated for the reasons above.

At a permanency hearing, DCYF was ordered to file a petition to terminate the mother’s parental rights. At a trial court hearing, evidence was presented that found that the mother was “successful in some areas” but was “unable to sustain her progress” and the court found beyond a reasonable doubt that the mother “failed to correct the conditions that led to the neglect finding within twelve months of that finding.” On appeal the mother argues that the evidence was insufficient. However, the Court, relying on Zachary G., found that because the record supports the mother’s access to services in her case plan that the trial court’s finding was reasonable. The mother also asserted, but the Court disagreed, that terminating her parental rights was not in the best interest of the children. Relying on the testimony of the GAL in the record related to the unsanitary conditions of the home, reminders to the mother during visitation regarding the children’s safety the Court can not say the trial court erred. A.G.’s father appealed the termination of his parental rights, but was unable to show that the trial court had made a reversible error based on the evidence in record of his failure to “bond with the child” and lack of DCYF case plan compliance.

S.A.’s father, who is incarcerated and was either in non-compliance or partial compliance during the twelve month review period, appealed the termination of his parental rights. The father argued and relying on Haley K. the Court agreed that the trial court erred at the permanency hearing in finding that he failed to correct the conditions that led to the neglect finding because his efforts while he was incarcerated did not “lead to the correction of the conditions that led to [S.A.’s] neglect.” While he was physically unavailable, he made provisions by identifying his sister as a relative placement for S.A. within the statutory period so the Court reversed the termination of his parental rights and remanded it for further proceedings.

 

Office of the attorney general  (Laura E.B. Lombardi, senior assistant attorney general, on the memorandum of law and orally) for the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families. Maureen Soraghan, of Glen, on the brief and orally for the mother. Jorel V. Booker, of Dover, on the brief and orally for the father of S.A. The Young Law Firm, of Conway (Robert Young on the brief and orally) for the father of A.G.