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 fathers seeking to establish paternity;
- 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.
Connecticut law permits a parent to designate a standby guardian of his or her child that takes effect on the occurrence of a specified contingency (for example, the parent’s illness, death or absence from the country). Information and forms for the designation of standby guardians are available in English and Spanish.
A standby guardian’s responsibility to care for a child comes into effect only if the specified contingency occurs. At that time, the standby guardian must sign a statement, under penalty of false statement, that the contingency has occurred. The standby guardianship ceases when the contingency no longer exists or at the end of one year, whichever is sooner. If the parent dies while the standby guardianship is in effect, the guardianship ceases 90 days after death.
Unlike other forms of guardianship, the Probate Court is not involved in the designation of a standby guardian. Standby guardianship forms are not filed with a Probate Court.
For further information, please see C.G.S. sections 45a-624 to 624g.
The State of Connecticut has developed a Family Preparedness Plan to assist families who have concerns about immigration enforcement, particularly in regards to the possibility of the deportation or detainment of parents and guardians and the impact that it could have on their children. Completing the standby guardianship form is an important part of the plan. The Family Preparedness Plan can be found by following the link below:
An individual who claims to be the father of a child born out of wedlock may petition a Probate Court to establish the child’s paternity. If the court finds that the individual is the child’s father, his parental rights and responsibilities will be the same as those of the mother, including the duty to pay child support.
A claim for paternity must be filed with the Probate Court where either the mother or the child resides. It may be filed before or after the child turns 18, or even after the death of the child. Form PC-907
can be used to file a paternity claim.
The authority of a Probate Court to act on a paternity claim is limited to specific circumstances. A Probate Court cannot hear a paternity claim if:
- The child’s mother was married at the time of birth;
- Another man is listed as the child’s father on the birth certificate;
- The paternity claim is filed by someone other than the individual claiming to be the father, unless that individual has died.
An individual should file a claim for paternity only if he believes that he is the child’s father because the law prevents the individual from denying paternity once the petition has been filed.