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COA reverses termination of mother's parental rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found Thursday that the trial court findings in a parental termination case out of Dearborn County do not support the decision to terminate a mother’s parental rights to three of her children.

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of C.M., G.M., and R.M.; A.M. (Mother) and C.M. (Father) v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, Dearborn County Office, No. 15A01-1104-JT-204, mother A.M. argued that the Department of Child Services didn’t establish by clear and convincing evidence the necessary statutory elements to support ending her parental rights. The COA agreed with her and reversed the trial court.

A.M.’s husband and the father of the three children at issue in this case was charged with battering the children while A.M. was in jail on a theft charge. He was later incarcerated in Florida and the children were placed back into A.M.’s care after being adjudicated as children in need of services. She received home-based family services, but issues arose when her boyfriend began staying with her. While serving a search warrant at her apartment, police found marijuana and the children were placed in foster care. DCS moved to terminate A.M.’s parental rights.

At an evidentiary hearing, A.M. said she was living alone in a three-bedroom trailer with her newborn twins, had income through unemployment benefits and was receiving outpatient drug treatment. The trial court terminated her parental rights to the three older children.

On appeal, she claimed that the trial court erred in determining that conditions weren’t remedied and removal was in the best interest of the children. The appellate court found the trial court made no factual determinations with respect to the evidence of changed conditions with the mother. The trial court is to judge parental fitness at the time of the termination hearing, while taking into consideration evidence of changed conditions, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey.

“Here, the court’s focus on historical conduct, absent factual findings as to Mother’s current circumstances or evidence of changed conditions, is akin to terminating parental rights to punish the parent. And, without more, the findings are insufficient to establish each element necessary to support the conclusion that termination is warranted in this case,” he wrote.

Judge Carr Darden concurred in result.

 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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