Justia Vermont Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Law
In re R.W. and N.W.
In this termination of parental rights case, the Supreme Court considered two separate appeals pertaining to a mother’s and father’s respective rights to their two daughters, seventeen-year-old R.W. and thirteen-year-old N.W. The case presented novel jurisdictional questions because the parents and children are citizens of Sri Lanka and, although mother and the children have been residents of Vermont for a number of years, father resided in Sri Lanka and has never been to Vermont. The Department for Children and Families (DCF) petitioned to terminate both mother’s and father’s residual parental rights. The family division granted the request as to mother, but concluded it lacked personal jurisdiction over father. Mother appealed termination of her parental rights, arguing that the superior court applied the incorrect standard of proof with respect to changed circumstances and engaged in a faulty best-interests analysis. DCF filed a separate appeal as to father, arguing that even though father lacked minimum contacts with Vermont, the court had jurisdiction to adjudicate the status of his children, who were within the court’s jurisdiction. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the termination of parental rights was a determination of status and could be adjudicated when the forum state has a sufficient connection to the children, even absent minimum contact jurisdiction over a parent. Further, in this case, the Court held that exercise of jurisdiction was authorized by the UCCJA and was reasonable given the strong interests of the state and the children in resolution of father’s rights as well as the lack of any conflicting jurisdictional claims by another state or country. The Court affirmed the termination of the mother's parental rights. View "In re R.W. and N.W." on Justia Law