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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. 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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