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Appeals court reverses termination of father’s rights

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The Department of Child Services failed to prove that a father’s children were removed for cause required under state statute, and the trial court erred in terminating the parental rights of the Dearborn County man.

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of: Q.M. and E.M., Minor Children, B.M., Father v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, 15A05-1112-JT-706, the court reversed Dearborn Circuit Judge James D. Humphrey’s order terminating the parental rights of B.M. to his children, ages 3 and 5.

Q.M. showed signs of abuse and, after a DCS investigation, both siblings were designated as children in need of services. B.M. later signed a Stipulation of CHINS agreement wherein he acknowledged that Q.M.’s injuries “would not have occurred but for the act or omission of a parent, custodian, or guardian.” He participated in counseling but failed to successfully complete court-ordered therapy and parenting evaluations. He demonstrated “extreme behavior” that was sanctioned by the court after his 2010 breakup with the children’s mother.

“For example, father sent 96 text messages and made numerous phone calls concerning mother and her whereabouts to the home-based counselor’s personal cell phone and home phone during a single weekend, causing the provider to feel threatened and to request no further work with father,” the court record says.

However, DCS terminated the father’s parental rights without required findings, Judge Elaine Brown wrote in a unanimous opinion.

“An involuntary termination petition must allege, and the state must prove by clear and convincing evidence, that the child was either removed from the parent for at least six months under a dispositional decree or removed from the family home at least fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months ‘at the time the involuntary termination petition was filed,’” Brown wrote.

“Based on the foregoing, it is clear that DCDCS (Dearborn County Indiana Dept. of Child Services) failed to satisfy the mandates of Ind. Code § 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A). Thus, the trial court committed reversible error in granting DCDCS’s involuntary termination petitions. …  The trial court’s judgment terminating Father’s parental rights to Q.M. and E.M. must be reversed.”

Brown closed with a footnote: “Our decision today should not be construed as a negative comment upon the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court’s specific findings or ultimate decision to terminate father’s parental rights. Moreover, in reaching this decision, we are keenly aware of the fact that both Q.M.’s and E.M.’s sense of permanency and well-being hangs in the balance. Further delay in the final resolution of the children’s cases is most certainly regrettable, but the court is bound by statute to ensure the process.”  



 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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