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Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Temporary Order Regarding Parental Rights

In Charles Groves v. Tasaday Green, 2016 VT 106 (September 9, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed a decision that awarded Mother sole legal and physical parental rights and responsibility and did not award Father any parent-child contact at that time.

Issue: Father challenged a court’s ruling, arguing that the court effectively terminated his parental rights without finding by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the best interest of the children. Father also argued that by including a provision in its order permitting Father to file a motion for parent-child contact after pending criminal charges against him were resolved, the court created a prerequisite to the resumption of his parental contact that was beyond his control.

Holding: The Court ruled that since the order at issue clearly contemplated a temporary order necessary for the protection of the children and did not permanently cut off Father’s parental rights, due process did not require a clear and convincing standard, but was satisfied by a preponderance of the evidence showing that the suspension of contact was necessary to protect the children. It also found that the resolution of the criminal case was important in order to properly craft a final order with respect to parent-child contact, making the decision to permit Father to file a motion for parent-child contact after the criminal charges were resolved appropriate. Since the resolution of his criminal case is information Father would have, it was reasonable to place the burden of filing such motion on Father.

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