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CHINS finding establishes only status of child

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A finding that a child is in need of services only establishes the status of the child and means the child is a CHINS even if one parent isn't involved in the reasons for the determination, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.

The issue as to whether a child can be deemed a CHINS with respect to one parent, but not the other arose in the case In the matter of N.E., a child in need of services; N.L. (father) v. Indiana Department of Child Services, No. 49S02-0906-JV-270. N.E.'s father, N.L., appealed the finding that N.E. was a child in need of services and the juvenile court's decision to not place his daughter with him. N.E.'s mother has four children with four different fathers and the children were removed from her home after the Department of Child Services alleged they were CHINS because of domestic violence in the home.

The court then established N.L.'s paternity and placed N.E. in his custody, but removed N.E. to foster care a week later due to concerns about her paternal grandfather's drug problems. N.L. lived with his parents.

At a fact-finding hearing, a guardian ad litem stated N.E. had lived with her father for an extensive period of time and there was no doubt she was appropriately cared for there. The juvenile court found the children to be wards of the state, but made no specific findings as to N.L. or reasons for not placing N.E. with him.

The Indiana Court of Appeals was split in its reversal, ruling the state hadn't proved that N.E. was a CHINS with regard to her father. Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented, arguing a CHINS determination regards only the status of the child.

The justices agreed with Judge Vaidik that a CHINS determination establishes the status of a child alone. The conduct of one parent can be enough for a child to be adjudicated a CHINS, and to adjudicate the culpability on the part of each parent would be at a variance with the purposes of a CHINS inquiry, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

"Said differently, the purpose of a CHINS adjudication is to protect children, not punish parents," he wrote.

The juvenile court properly adjudicated N.E. as a CHINS because the mother failed to protect the children against the domestic violence in the home. In these circumstances, the CHINS petition didn't have to make any allegations with respect to N.L., the justice wrote.

The justices also agreed with the Court of the Appeals that the trial court's reasons for finding N.E. to be a ward of the state failed to take into account the time she spent in her father's care or why she shouldn't have been placed with him.

The omission of these facts are important because when a juvenile court makes a decision during a CHINS hearing as to whether a child will be a ward of the state or orders services, this could potentially interfere with the parents' rights in bringing up their children, wrote Justice Sullivan. Also, statute requires a juvenile court to enter a decree that is least restrictive and consider placing a child with a blood relative before other out-of-home placements, he continued.

The justices vacated that part of the juvenile court's judgment pertaining to N.E. because it may have interfered with N.L.'s rights to raise his daughter, and remanded for proceedings consistent with the opinion.

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  1. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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