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‘Marijuana legal elsewhere’ claim no help in parental termination appeal

November 5, 2013

Termination of parental rights was properly granted for a molesting father in federal prison and a drug-using mother who failed to comply with court-ordered services after striking a child.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the Wabash Circuit Court ruling in In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: S.L. & D.L. (Minor Children) and K.M., (Mother) & D.L.,(Father) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 85A02-1304-JT-308.

Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote that the trial court’s findings of fact were sufficient and warranted termination of parental rights. Federal authorities didn’t allow father to participate in the termination hearings, but he was represented by counsel and received transcripts of two of three hearings. The panel rejected arguments that his due process rights were violated, noting this was only raised on appeal.

Mother had tested positive for marijuana, methamphetamine and synthetic drugs, according to the record, and indicated uncertainty about severing ties with father despite her belief that he posed a molestation threat to their children. She also argued that she eventually had clean drug screens, which the court noted was after she was behind bars.

The court also noted mother argued “her marijuana use is ‘not a sufficient reason’ for terminating her parental rights. … She claims that ‘there are many people in the United States that agree with her about marijuana’ and cites the legalization of recreational marijuana use in other states as support for her claim.

“Assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, Mother fails to acknowledge that recreational marijuana use is not legal in Indiana and, more importantly, that one of the prerequisites for reunification with her children was that she not use marijuana. Nonetheless, Mother used marijuana frequently during the termination proceedings,” Vaidik wrote in affirming the trial court.  



 

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