Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Termination of Parental Rights — Default
Attorney Appearance — Parent’s Participation
Matter of Savanna G.
Appealed from Family Court, Erie County
Background: The respondent mother appealed from an order terminating her parental rights due to permanent neglect. The mother contends the orders at issue were entered into due to her default, but it was due to her attorney’s failure to appear and that there was no sufficient evidence supporting the determination.
Ruling: The Appellate Division affirmed. The court held that the mother appeared at the fact-finding hearing and participated in the hearing with cross-examination of one witness. However, the mother’s attorney chose not to participate in the remainder of the hearing when the mother left the courtroom after the first witness testified. Therefore, there was no default. Also, the Appellate Division held that it was demonstrated that, despite her limited participation in programs to successfully address the underlying issues, the mother did not gain insight into the problems that led to the removal of the child.
Bernadette M. Hoppe for the respondent-appellant; Joseph T. Jarzembek for the petitioner-respondent; Charles D. Halvorsen of the the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo Inc. for the child