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COA: Parental rights should be ended

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's decision to continue the parental rights of two incarcerated parents, finding it to be in the child's best interest to sever the rights because the parents possibly won't be released from prison for two more years.

In In Re: The termination of the parent-child relationship of J.M.; Daniel G. Pappas, guardian ad litem v. A.S., mother, A.M., alleged father, and the Allen County Department of Child Services, No. 02A05-0807-JV-416, Daniel Pappas, as guardian ad litem for J.M., appealed the trial court's denial of the Allen County Office of Family and Children's petition to terminate A.S. and A.M.'s parental rights. Both had been incarcerated on drug charges since 2004, when J.M. was nearly 4 years old. J.M. had bounced around between family members and foster care and has remained in foster care since January 2006.

The trial court denied the petition to terminate parental rights, citing Rowlett v. Vanderburgh County Office of Family and Children, 841 N.E.2d 615 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), in which a father's parental rights weren't terminated because he would be getting out of prison in six weeks, had secured housing and a job, and the children would continue to live with their grandparents until he was able to care for them. The trial court in the instant case found the J.M.'s parents' release dates to be "soon" and that they had completed many required services under the dispositional decree while incarcerated.

But Rowlett is different from the instant case, wrote Judge Carr Darden. J.M.'s mother's earliest release date is April 2009 if she completes college courses; his father's current release date is January 2010. Neither has shown they have secured employment or housing once they are released, wrote the judge. As a result of the trial court's ruling, J.M. would have to remain in foster care for two more years, or possibly longer until his parents could secure a job and home.

The Allen County Office of Family and Children presented clear and convincing evidence A.S. and A.M. are unable to provide a safe and stable environment for J.M. and that it is in his best interest the parental rights are terminated, wrote Judge Darden. J.M. hasn't seen his parents since 2005 and only communicates with his mother through an occasional letter or phone call.

The appellate court remanded to the trial court with instructions to enter an order terminating A.S. and A.M.'s parental rights.

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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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