ILNews

Court reverses because of DCS notification policy

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the parental right termination decision made by a trial court, ruling that both the court and Indiana Department of Child Services in Porter County denied a biological father his due process by not notifying him of CHINS proceedings that ultimately led to his paternal rights being taken away.

An appellate ruling came today in Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of J.S.O.; S.O. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 64A05-1005-JT-304, which involved a child born in May 2008 and two biological parents who weren’t married but had determined paternity at an Oklahoma hospital following the birth of J.O.

The father was arrested that year and extradited to Indiana on an outstanding warrant, and he has not had contact with J.O since then. In July 2008, the mother was arrested on cocaine and drug paraphernalia charges and the child was taken into protective custody, starting this CHINS process. But the Porter County DCS officials didn’t notify the father of any of those proceedings despite having his vital information and knowing about the out-of-state paternity affidavit, stating an agency policy that presumes paternity has not been established if a child is born out of wedlock in another state and a court order indicating otherwise hasn’t been issued.

Once the CHINS hearing was finished, the DCS did notify the father that the parental termination hearing was taking place and he got involved at that point and stayed a part of the case. Despite the father’s objections, in April 2010 the trial court ruled against him and involuntarily terminated his rights to the child, so he sued.

The three appellate judges all agreed that the state agency and Porter County trial court had “blatantly ignored” state statute and due process. They looked at Indiana Code 31-34-3-4 requiring notice to each of the child’s parents, and IC 31-34-3-4(2) that requires the DCS to make a good faith effort to contact the child’s parents within six hours after the child has been taken into custody.

“Notwithstanding our holding today, we pause to clarify that we are not commenting upon the sufficiency of the evidence in this case or on the extent to which a county office of the Indiana Department of Child Services must provide services to parents in a CHINS case,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote, being joined by Judge L. Mark Bailey. “Nor should this opinion be construed as adding an additional element to those already required by Indiana’s termination statute. Rather, we simply cannot ignore PCDCS’s and the trial court’s failure to follow numerous and substantial statutory mandates in this matter."

Judge James Kirsch agreed that the father was denied due process during CHINS proceedings, but he wrote in his dissent that this did not deprive him of procedural due process with respect to the termination of his parental rights. He cited how the father was given notice on the termination hearing, and the evidence of his past history clearly showed the termination rights should be terminated – as the trial court had done. The majority’s decision will result in enormous disruption to the child’s life, he wrote.



 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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