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Court Discusses Termination of Parental Rights Based on Neglect


A New York Family Lawyer said the child in question is mentally retarded and suffers from cerebral palsy and ataxia. A neglect finding was entered against the mother, and the child was placed in the custody of the father. Several months later, the child suffered a broken leg while under the care and supervision of the father’s friend, and he was then placed in foster care. Since that time, due to his multiple handicaps, the child has been placed into six different foster homes.

A permanently neglected child is defined as one who is in the care of an authorized agency and whose parent has failed for a period of more than one year substantially and continuously or repeatedly to maintain contact with or plan for the future of the child notwithstanding the agency’s diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen the parental relationship. It has been said that in a proceeding to terminate parental rights based on permanent neglect, the threshold consideration is whether the agency has discharged its statutory obligation to exercise diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen the parental relationship.

Moreover, a New York Child Custody Lawyer said when the child care agency has custody of the child and brings the proceeding to terminate parental rights, it has the burden of establishing its diligent efforts by clear and convincing evidence. An agency which has tried diligently to reunite a mother with her child but which is confronted by an uncooperative or indifferent parent is deemed to have fulfilled its duty.

Here, a Queens Family Lawyer said the agency established by clear and convincing evidence that it met its statutory obligation to exercise diligent efforts to encourage and strengthen the parental relationship. The agency’s efforts failed because of the mother’s refusal to cooperate. She had no contact with her child for several years after he entered foster care. Thereafter, visitation was minimal and sporadic. The agency referred the respondent to several counseling and parenting skills programs that she failed to complete, and arranged visitation that the respondent failed to attend. Moreover, the testimony established that the foster parents had formed a strong bond with the child, and the respondent conceded that she was unable to care for the child.

The petitioner satisfied its burden of proving permanent neglect in that the respondent has permanently neglected her child by failing to maintain contact with him and to plan for his future despite the diligent efforts by the agency to encourage and reunite them.

In an appeal which involves a child custody dispute between the petitioner maternal grandmother and the natural parents of two children, the petitioner argues that the Family Court improperly awarded permanent child custody to the parents.

A Queens Child Custody Lawyer said it is well established that a natural parent has a claim of child custody, superior to that of all others, unless the parent has abandoned that right or is proved unfit to assume the duties and privileges of parenthood.

In the absence of surrender, abandonment, persistent neglect, unfitness or other like extraordinary circumstances, a parent may not be denied child custody. The burden of establishing the existence of such extraordinary circumstances is upon the party seeking to deprive the natural parent of child custody. Further, until the threshold of extraordinary circumstances has been satisfied, the question of the children’s best interests is not reached.

The Family Court properly determined that the petitioner failed to establish the existence of extraordinary circumstances. Although there was a factual dispute as to whether or not the mother surrendered, abandoned, or neglected her children, the Family’s Court’s resolution of the questions of credibility was supported by the record. Further, the Family Court Judge, who saw and heard the parties, was in the best position to determine the credibility of their testimony as to the disputed issues of fact, the findings of the Family Court must be accorded great respect on appeal. Therefore, since the petitioner failed to make a threshold showing that extraordinary circumstances existed, the Family Court properly denied the petition and awarded permanent child custody to the respondents. The petitioner’s remaining contentions including those raised in her supplemental pro se brief are without merit.

Sometimes the people who fight for the children’s best interest are not their parents but the people around them. Not all parents can love their children unconditionally. If you want to find a way on how to fight for custody, consult the Nassau County Custody Lawyer together with the Nassau County Family Attorney from Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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