Legal News: Parent and Child: Termination - Unfitness

Lawyers Weekly: January 11, 2021 This Week's Decisions:

Where a Juvenile Court judge found a mother unfit to assume parental responsibility and issued a decree terminating her parental rights, the facts as found by the judge do not constitutue clear and convincing evidence of the mother's current unfitness.


"The findings of fact made by the judge in this case are unusually thin for a case involving a termination of parental rights. ...

"...Reading the findings of fact leaves one with the impression that the child was removed because of an earlier event, in which the child was not picked up at the paternal grandmother's home the morning after an overnight visit. On that occasion the paternal grandmother was unable to reach the mother until 2 pm the next day, following which the mother failed to pick up the child 'throughout the day.' Without minimizing the seriousness of mother's failure on that occasion, it obviously was not as serious as the event that, the department asserts, actually led to the paternal granmother being given temporary guardianship of the child. And indeed, the judge's memorandum left us with the impression that there was only the one occasion on which the mother left the child with a caregiver and did not return as promised.

"Likewise, the judge did not make findings of fact with respect to many of the concerns described in the evidence. Nor did she make findings about the way in which whatever shortcomings there were did or did not affect the mother's ability to parent the child.

"In short, taken together the facts as found by the judge did not constitute clear and convincing evidence of the mother's current unfitness'....

"Consequently, we vacate the decree and follow the procedure set out in Care & Protection of Lillith, 61 Mass. App. Ct. 132, 142, (2004), 'remanding the case for clarification of the judge's findings' on the relevant matters..."