Matters involving the care and guardianship of children are among the most sensitive and difficult the Probate Courts handle. With no room for error, courts must sort through family and socio-economic issues to determine outcomes that are in the best interests of the children. Probate Courts handle the following situations:
- removing unfit parents as guardians of their children;
- hearing the claims of paternity of unwed fathers;
- overseeing the financial accounts of a minor;
- terminating parental rights when parents cannot fulfill their responsibilities;
- granting adoptions; and
- emancipation of minors.
Regional Children's Probate Courts
Children's matters have grown in number and complexity over the years, prompting the first Regional Children's Probate Court to open in New Haven in 2004. The court unites personnel from surrounding Probate Courts and local and state agencies to ensure that children and their families can thrive in a secure, stable home environment. Highly trained staff that includes professionals in child development and family relations, called Probate Court officers, hold family conferences to develop the best care plans for the child and provide support and long-term monitoring. Six Regional Children's Probate Courts now operate in New Haven, Meriden, New London, Waterbury, Windham and Hartford. The courts won an Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments in 2006.
When a parent is incapable of caring for a child, the Probate Court must appoint somebody to take responsibility and provide a suitable home for the child. Family members, most often, come forward and assume custody of the child, but sometimes family members are not available or suitable for the task. In those situations, the court will often appoint a close family friend to care for the child.
For non-parent family members who are court-appointed guardians of children, the Probate Courts oversee two programs that provide small grants to help pay for school clothing, health services and enrichment programs for children, and transportation, daycare and housing for families. For details, including qualification requirements, click on the Kinship and Respite Funds button above.