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DCS admits petition flawed; COA orders more proceedings

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The Gibson Circuit Court committed fundamental error in terminating the parental rights of a mother and father over their young child, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Friday. The Department of Child Services admitted that it failed to comply with statute when filing the petition to terminate their parental rights.

In Term. of the Parent-Child Rel. of: B.F. (Minor Child), and M.G. & S.F. (Father & Mother) v. The Indiana Dept. of Child Services, 26A04-1202-JT-90, parents M.G. and S.F. appealed Judge Jeffrey Meade’s decision to terminate their rights to their child, B.F. The DCS removed the child from the mother’s home in January 2010. The parents admitted to the allegations in the CHINS petition. On March 30, 2010, the parents signed a parental participation order, and the trial court entered its dispositional decree in May.

In October 2010, the DCS filed the petition to end M.G. and S.F.’s parental rights, alleging B.F. had been removed from their care for at least six months under the dispositional decree issued in March. But the petition contained no allegations that the trial court entered a finding under Indiana Code 31-34-21-5.6, nor did it allege that B.F. had been removed from the parents for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months, the appellate court noted.

Meade terminated their parental rights in February 2012.

“Here, DCS has conceded that its petition is jurisdictionally flawed. We acknowledge that DCS admits they failed to comply with the statute,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

The trial court entered the dispositional decree in May 2010, but the termination petition was filed in October 2010, less than four months after the entry of the dispositional decree and less than nine months after B.F. was removed from the home.

“Further, there is no evidence that the trial court ever entered a finding under I.C. § 31-34-21-5.6. Therefore, the only requirement alleged under I.C. § 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A) was not true,” she wrote.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.

 

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

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