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COA reverses termination of mother's parental rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found Thursday that the trial court findings in a parental termination case out of Dearborn County do not support the decision to terminate a mother’s parental rights to three of her children.

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of C.M., G.M., and R.M.; A.M. (Mother) and C.M. (Father) v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, Dearborn County Office, No. 15A01-1104-JT-204, mother A.M. argued that the Department of Child Services didn’t establish by clear and convincing evidence the necessary statutory elements to support ending her parental rights. The COA agreed with her and reversed the trial court.

A.M.’s husband and the father of the three children at issue in this case was charged with battering the children while A.M. was in jail on a theft charge. He was later incarcerated in Florida and the children were placed back into A.M.’s care after being adjudicated as children in need of services. She received home-based family services, but issues arose when her boyfriend began staying with her. While serving a search warrant at her apartment, police found marijuana and the children were placed in foster care. DCS moved to terminate A.M.’s parental rights.

At an evidentiary hearing, A.M. said she was living alone in a three-bedroom trailer with her newborn twins, had income through unemployment benefits and was receiving outpatient drug treatment. The trial court terminated her parental rights to the three older children.

On appeal, she claimed that the trial court erred in determining that conditions weren’t remedied and removal was in the best interest of the children. The appellate court found the trial court made no factual determinations with respect to the evidence of changed conditions with the mother. The trial court is to judge parental fitness at the time of the termination hearing, while taking into consideration evidence of changed conditions, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey.

“Here, the court’s focus on historical conduct, absent factual findings as to Mother’s current circumstances or evidence of changed conditions, is akin to terminating parental rights to punish the parent. And, without more, the findings are insufficient to establish each element necessary to support the conclusion that termination is warranted in this case,” he wrote.

Judge Carr Darden concurred in result.

 

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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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