This decision has been designated as "Supreme Court of Vermont Appeals Disposed of Without Published Opinion or Memorandum Decision." table in the Atlantic Reporter
APPEALED FROM: Superior Court, Chit. Civ. Division. DOCKET NO. 220-2-13 Cncv. Trial Judge: Geoffrey W. Crawford.
Reiber, C.J., Dooley, and Skoglund, JJ.
In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:
This case originated in the probate court where an adoption service moved to terminate the parental rights of father to his biological son, T.S.B., born in August 2012. The probate court granted termination, and father appealed to the civil division. The civil division affirmed the probate court's termination of father's parental rights, concluding that father is unfit and that termination is in the child's best interests. On appeal, father argues that the court erred in considering a twenty-four year-old criminal conviction and considering evidence that does not bear on his ability to parent T.S.B. We affirm.
The court found the following facts. In 1989, when he was thirty-seven, father was married with three young children and had a sexual relationship with a fifteen-year-old girl, who became pregnant. Father was convicted of felonious sexual assault and received a three-to-six year sentence. He refused treatment while incarcerated because he did not admit the conduct. Since then, father has been convicted of failing to register as a sex offender in 2001 and of stalking in 2004. In the context of these proceedings, father admitted to altering copies of checks to make it appear that he had provided financial support to T.S.B.'s mother during the pregnancy. Father has a fifth child who visits him on weekends.
T.S.B.'s biological mother is a heroin and opiate addict. She was incarcerated nine times between May 2010 and March 2013 on drug-related charges. She met father, who is thirty-five years her senior, in 2010. For three years, she had unprotected sex with father, and, in exchange, father gave mother money to buy illegal drugs and facilitated her purchase of drugs from a dealer. When T.S.B.'s mother became pregnant, she was unsure of the child's paternity because she had multiple sexual partners at the time. She did not think father could be the father because he falsely informed her that he had undergone a vasectomy.
Mother arranged to have the child adopted through an adoption service. Mother chose the adoptive parents. The service provided mother with groceries, gas cards and medical treatment. Because of her addiction, the service did not give her cash. Father received a rental payment from the service for a two-week period when mother was staying at his house.
During the pregnancy, T.S.B.'s mother continued to use illegal drugs. Father gave mother money for drugs and bought her drugs.
When T.S.B. was born, he was very ill from the illegal drugs in his body. The prospective parents were present at the birth and remained with T.S.B. in the intensive care unit. After they left the hospital, the prospective parents cared for T.S.B. T.S.B. is closely attached to the prospective parents and their family. T.S.B. would experience trauma and hurt if separated from the parents and family he has known since birth.
Mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights after T.S.B.'s birth.
Although father knew of the pregnancy he did not take any action until after the child was born, when he contacted the service. Father then filed a parentage action and sought custody of T.S.B. A paternity test confirmed father as the biological father. The service filed to terminate father's parental rights. The probate division held a two-day hearing and terminated father's rights, finding that father did not pay for prenatal, natal or postnatal expenses and was complicit in mother's use of opiates during the pregnancy. Further, the court found that father's criminal ...