End of parental rights not based on disability

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the involuntary termination of a couple's rights to their children, ruling the final order was valid even without the presiding magistrate judge's signature, and the fact the mother has a hearing disability was not a reason why the mother's parental rights were ended.

In R.W. Sr. (father) and D.B.W. (mother) v. Marion County Dept. of Child Services, et al., No. 49A04-0801-JV-64, married parents R.W. Sr. and D.B.W. challenged the court's decision to terminate their parental rights over their children, of which R.W. Sr. was the father of only R.W. Jr.

The two raised several issues on appeal, including whether the final order was valid because the presiding magistrate judge didn't sign it, whether the state met the statutory requirements to terminate the parental rights, and whether the state terminated D.B.W.'s parental rights because she has a hearing disability.

The children were removed from the home because of unsafe living conditions after R.W. Jr. was found roaming outside his house alone. The parents completed some court-ordered services, such as parenting classes and home-based counseling, but they didn't progress toward being allowed to have unsupervised visits. They also didn't comply with all the court-ordered services.

The children had been out of the home for more than three years when Magistrate Judge Danielle Gaughan presided over the fact-finding hearing and terminated the couple's parental rights in early 2008. Marion Superior Judge Marilyn Moores was the only one to sign the judgment.

D.B.W. argues this requires the order to be reversed because the order is technically deficient, but nothing in Indiana Code requires a magistrate judge to sign the final order, only to report his or her findings to the trial court, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

After reviewing the juvenile court's record, the Court of Appeals found that court did not base its decision to terminate D.B.W.'s parental rights based on the fact she has a significant hearing disability that challenges her ability to communicate with her children. Instead, the court considered her refusal to take the necessary steps to bridge communication - adjust her hearing aids or learn sign language, Judge Friedlander wrote.

The appellate court also found the juvenile court met all the statutory requirements necessary for termination of the couple's parental rights, and that it was in the best interest of the children that they remain outside of the home, the judge wrote.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues