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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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  2. Ok, so cheap laughs made about the Christian Right. hardiharhar ... All kidding aside, it is Mohammad's followers who you should be seeking divine protection from. Allahu Akbar But progressives are in denial about that, even as Europe crumbles.

  3. Father's rights? What about a mothers rights? A child's rights? Taking a child from the custody of the mother for political reasons! A miscarriage of justice! What about the welfare of the child? Has anyone considered parent alienation, the father can't erase the mother from the child's life. This child loves the mother and the home in Wisconsin, friends, school and family. It is apparent the father hates his ex-wife more than he loves his child! I hope there will be a Guardian Ad Litem, who will spend time with and get to know the child, BEFORE being brainwashed by the father. This is not just a child! A little person with rights and real needs, a stable home and a parent that cares enough to let this child at least finish the school year, where she is happy and comfortable! Where is the justice?

  4. "The commission will review applications and interview qualified candidates in March and April." Riiiiiight. Would that be the same vaulted process that brought us this result done by "qualified candidates"? http://www.theindianalawyer.com/justices-deny-transfer-to-child-custody-case/PARAMS/article/42774 Perhaps a lottery system more like the draft would be better? And let us not limit it to Indiana attorneys so as to give the untainted a fighting chance?

  5. Steal a little, and they put you in jail. Steal a lot, and they make you king. Bob Dylan ala Samuel Johnson. I had a very similar experience trying to hold due process trampling bureaucrats responsible under the law. Consider this quote and commentary:"'When the president does it, that means it is not illegal,' [Richard] Nixon told his interviewer. Those words were largely seen by the American public -- which continued to hold the ex-president in low esteem -- as a symbol of his unbowed arrogance. Most citizens still wanted to believe that no American citizen, not even the president, is above the law." BWHaahaaahaaa!!!! http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/When-the-president-does-it-that-means-it-is-not-illegal.html

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