ILNews

Court rules on parental rights terminations

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals today ruled for the first time on an aspect of a state statute dictating when the Department of Child Services can initiate parental rights termination proceedings.

A unanimous decision today affirms a trial court judgment in the case of In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of A.B. and Dawn B. v. Department of Child Services, No. 02A03-0712-JV-599.

The appellant-respondent's daughter, when she was 6, was hospitalized in 2002 for violent, uncontrollable behavior and the Allen County DCS started investigating a later report that the woman's two kids engaged in sexual behavior. The trial court declared the daughter to be a child in need of services. Years later after the girl was placed in a children's home, the DCS filed a petition to end the mother's parental rights. That happened in August 2007.

Specifically, the appeal involves Indiana Code Section 31-34-1-16 that provides the DCS "may not...initiate a court proceeding to ... terminate the parental rights concerning ... a child with an emotional, behavioral, or a mental disorder ... who is voluntarily placed out of the home for the purposes of obtaining a special treatment or care, solely because the parent, guardian, or custodian, is unable to provide the treatment or care."

While the girl was voluntarily removed from the home in this case, the court determined that the Allen County DCS initiated termination proceedings because the mother had also refused to cooperate with service providers and failed to participate in counseling to address her own mental issues - making her both unable and unwilling to provide adequate care for the child.

However, the court wrote in a footnote that this decision leaves open a question for the legislature or DCS: "How the state will provide long-term care for a child in need of services where, under the statute, parental rights may not be terminated, but where the parents, through no fault of their own, are unable and permanently incapable of becoming able to care for their special needs child."
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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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