January 6, 2017 | Supreme Court Reviews

Vermont Supreme Court Holds That Termination of Parental Rights Cannot Be Set Aside

In In re P.K., 2017 VT 3 (Jan. 6, 2017), the Supreme Court held that the superior court had not abused its discretion by denying mother’s motion to set aside the termination of her parental rights.

Issue: Mother entered into a post-adoption contact agreement with the paternal grandmother of her child and, simultaneously, voluntarily relinquished her parental rights.  Subsequently, child was removed from paternal grandmother’s care because of neglect.  Grandmother then was precluded from adopting the child.  In response, mother moved to set aside the termination of her parental rights.  The Superior Court denied her motion.  She appealed.  

Holding: The Supreme Court held that the superior court had not abused its discretion by denying mother’s motion to set aside the termination of her parental rights.  In signing the post-adoption contact agreement, mother had acknowledged that the termination of parental rights is irrevocable, even if the intended adoption is not finalized.  The statute governing the modification/vacation of orders in juvenile proceedings does not apply to an order terminating parental rights.  Mother was precluded from entering into another post-adoption contact agreement because of the requirement that such agreements precede a termination order, but that was not sufficient to show hardship/injustice.