COA concerned about some details in termination case

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In affirming the involuntary termination of a mother’s parental rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted some troubling details involving the case.

Mother Z.G. appealed the termination of her parental rights of her daughter, C.G., whom she left in the care of a neighbor or then-boyfriend when she went to Utah and was arrested on drug charges. During that time, C.G. was sexually abused. C.G. was placed in foster care and has remained with that family.

The mother was originally jailed in Utah but then transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Office in the Southern District of Indiana and jailed in Kentucky. Attempts to find her by Department of Child Services case managers failed, and mother wasn’t located until several months later when she learned from a friend there were termination and child in need of services proceedings regarding C.G.

Mother’s requests to appear in person at the hearings in Marion Juvenile Court were denied and she appeared via telephone. On appeal in Term. of parent-child rel. of C.G.; Z.G. v. Marion County DCS and Child Advocates, No. 49A04-1002-JT-75, mother claimed DCS and the trial court deprived her of due process, the trial court abused its discretion by excluding evidence regarding the permanent disposition for C.G., and there’s insufficient evidence to support the termination.

The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the termination but took issue with several details in the case. One DCS case manager’s affidavit of diligent inquiry filed when DCS sought to serve notice upon Z.G. by publication contained an inaccuracy. It said that the case manager had asked “family acquaintances regarding the parent’s whereabouts,” but the manager testified he used a form to generate the affidavit and that statement couldn’t be removed. He didn’t contact any family acquaintances. Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote that his attitude toward executing a sworn affidavit is “troubling,” but the inaccuracy didn’t increase the error in termination proceedings.

The appellate panel was also concerned by the fact that the DCS case manager, who first received a letter from the mother in November 2008, didn’t tell her a CHINS case was pending in his response letter in December 2008. The mother didn’t learn of the proceeding until she received an advisement of rights form and copy of the CHINS petition in a February 2009 letter, a little less than a month before DCS filed its petition for termination.

“DCS’s delay in sending Mother a copy of the CHINS petition and an advisement of rights effectively precluded Mother from participating in the CHINS case in its later stages and cannot be condoned. Nevertheless, we cannot conclude that DCS’s dilatory behavior substantially increased the risk of error in the termination proceedings,” Judge Vaidik wrote.

Finally, the appellate judges were troubled by the Marion Superior Court’s policy that juvenile prisoners cannot be within sight or hearing of adult prisoners, and the Juvenile Division lacks the facilities to separately house adult and juvenile offenders at the Juvenile Center. There is a blanket policy preventing adult inmates from participating in person in proceedings at the center, thus mother had to participate by telephone.

“As the evidence at the hearing shows, there are other Marion County courts with the capacity to hold adult prisoners, and those could be used in termination proceedings when necessary,” she wrote. “We can foresee circumstances under which an incarcerated parent’s in-person participation in a termination proceeding would be necessary, and the Marion Superior Court’s policy could deprive parents of their right to due process in those circumstances.”

Nonetheless, the judges found Z.G.’s due process rights weren’t significantly compromised by her telephonic participation because she was represented by counsel, she testified during the hearing, and was able to authenticate exhibits her counsel sent her.


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise