Court Washington County Family Court No. 2015-217-Appeal
Associate Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia
FROM LOWER COURT: Associate Justice Stephen J. Capineri
ATTORNEYS ON APPEAL: For Petitioner: Richard A. Merolla, Esq.
For Respondent: Susan B. Iannitelli, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
respondent, Anthony Bucci (respondent or Bucci), appeals from
an order terminating his parental rights based on the
abandonment of his daughter, Livia, and from the granting of
Derek Gray's petition to adopt her. This matter came
before the Supreme Court on November 30, 2016, pursuant to an
order directing the parties to appear and show cause why this
Court should not summarily decide the issues raised by this
appeal. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing
the memoranda of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has
not been shown. Thus, we shall decide the matter without
further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth
herein, we affirm the order of the Family Court.
Facts and Travel
was born to Marissa Levesque and respondent, Bucci, on April 28, 2004.
At the time of Livia's birth, Levesque was seventeen
years of age and respondent was twenty years of age. They
were not married and lived in separate households. On March
15, 2013, Levesque and Gray filed a joint Family Court
petition for the termination of respondent's parental
rights and for the adoption of Livia by Gray. A trial on the
matter took place on March 25, April 15, and April 22, 2014.
testified first. He stated that he lives with Levesque,
Livia, and another daughter that he had with Levesque. He
stated that he began dating Levesque in late 2008, he met
Livia in early 2009, and they began living together in the
spring of 2010. Gray testified that he married Levesque in
September 2012. He testified that he played a significant
positive role in Livia's life as a father figure and
that, since 2010, Livia has called him "Dad."
Further, Gray stated that he supported Livia financially,
which included setting up a college fund for her. He believed
the last time respondent saw Livia was in the spring of 2009.
For all of these reasons, Gray and Levesque jointly filed a
petition for Gray to adopt Livia pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
testified next. She confirmed that, from Livia's birth
until she was five years old, Levesque's relationship
with respondent was "on and off and when it was good for
him." She stated that they would "get involved a
bit, fall off, and [he would] do whatever was best for him
and let [Livia] down and start over and repeat."
Levesque also testified that, during Livia's life,
respondent was incarcerated "[m]ore often than not,
" which impacted their relationship.
confirmed that significant Family Court activity occurred
between her and respondent, including a restraining order she
obtained against him, and visitation and child-support
issues. Levesque testified that respondent did not partake in
usual visitation, and it depended on "if [Levesque and
respondent] were good." She stated that she always
supervised visits because she felt it was necessary. She
recalled a period in 2010 where a justice of the Family Court
granted respondent supervised visitation, but she noted that
only one such visit occurred. She described this visit as
"[p]robably one of the worst days of my life as a parent
to see my child literally attached to my neck and my waist
and would not get off me."
to the 2010 visit, Levesque stated that respondent's last
visit with Livia was shortly after Christmas in 2009, during
which visit respondent spent very little time with the child.
She described Livia's relationship with respondent at
this point as "kind of awkward for her, but she knew who
he was and * * * I always covered for him." When asked
whether respondent maintained regular contact with Livia
prior to the 2009 visit, Levesque responded, "No."
also discussed child support. She stated that although a
child-support order was entered against respondent, he filed
multiple motions to reduce it. Moreover, she testified that
neither respondent nor anyone on his behalf paid child
support from 2005 until the day of her testimony in 2014. She
stated that, since the supervised visit in 2010, respondent
had not moved for further visitation; however, he did move to
modify the child support order in 2013.
cross-examination, she testified that she periodically
brought Livia to respondent's mother's house, where
respondent resided in 2009. She testified that respondent and
Livia did not have a set visitation schedule, and she
confirmed that she controlled whether or not to permit
visitation. When asked whether respondent ever gave Livia
gifts, she stated, "At some point in Livia's life
[respondent] has gotten her some clothing here and there when
she was very little." Levesque ...