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COA affirms ruling in 'unusual' termination case

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In an unusual case on appeal in which a mother's parental rights were terminated to only one of her five children during a termination hearing, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the decision due to the circumstances of the case.

Lavonne Aikens appealed the termination of her parental rights to her son I.A. in the case In the Matter of Termination of Parental-Child Relationship of I.A. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, No. 02A05-0811-JV-660. I.A. is the youngest of her nine children and tested positive for cocaine at birth. I.A. also has a genetic disorder and multiple physical deformities. The Allen County Department of Child Services filed a petition alleging I.A. and four of his siblings were children in need of services. The children were placed in foster care, with I.A. placed with a different family. Aikens never developed a relationship with I.A., wasn't fully aware of his medical situation, and refused to donate blood to help doctors determine his genetic disorder.

The Court of Appeals described the case as "very unusual" in its opinion today, given that the rights to only one child were terminated in a hearing regarding five children. The circumstances of the case support the termination to parental rights of I.A., given Aikens' indifference towards her son, her lack of cooperation with doctors in giving blood to test for I.A.'s genetic disorder, and failure to contact a DCS family case manager to ask about I.A.

"Although we commend Mother for being drug-free at the termination hearing (and hope that she is still drug-free today), kicking a cocaine habit for eight months is one thing. But overcoming a pattern of indifference to a child who has many medical needs is quite another. The DCS has established a reasonable probability that Mother will not change regarding I.A.," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Aikens also argued that the totality of the evidence showed she complied with services such that the court denied terminating her parental rights to her other four children and the court speculated on her ability to care for I.A. But I.A. was treated separately by the attorneys and witnesses during the termination hearing for good reason, wrote the judge. Even Aikens' own counsel said in closing statements that counsel would understand if the court just terminated her rights to I.A. given Aikens' past and chance of relapse. Based on all of the evidence, the appellate court ruled the trial court's judgment wasn't erroneous.

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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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