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Evidence failed to support ending parental rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's ruling to involuntarily terminate a mother's parental rights to her young twins, finding the court issued deficient termination orders and lacked clear and convincing evidence to terminate the parental rights.

Charlotte Moore appealed the termination of her parental rights over the twins, C.R.M. and C.B.M., in Charlotte Moore v. Jasper County Department of Child Services, No. 37A03-0803-JV-103.

The twin toddlers were removed after the Jasper County Department of Child Services was informed by police of Moore's confrontation with her two oldest children while all three were drinking. Moore had a history of referrals to JCDCS for neglect, abuse, or lack of supervision, but not all of the referrals were substantiated.

At the time of the fact-finding hearing nearly two years after the children were removed from Moore's care, she had married, enrolled in school, regained custody of two of her other minor children, gotten a driver's license, obtained suitable housing, and re-initiated individual counseling.

JCDCS testified Moore's parental rights should be terminated; the twin's guardian ad litem opposed the termination based on the progress Moore had made since the children had been removed. The Jasper Circuit Court terminated Moore's rights to her twins.

But the trial court failed to follow Indiana statute when issuing its order, the Indiana Court of Appeals found. The orders didn't list the specific requirements that must be alleged and proved by clear and convincing evidence, wrote Judge Edward Najam. The trial court's orders appear to be a recitation of the evidence presented at the hearing; in addition, the court didn't make any conclusions based on its findings and failed to explain how its findings support the judgment, wrote the judge.

It appears the trial court based its termination order on Moore's ability to care for her children at the time the children were taken away, not at the time of the termination hearing. Moore had made significant strides in accomplishing many of the dispositional goals put in place by the JCDCS. The trial court's order wasn't supported by clear and convincing evidence and the JCDCS failed to show there is a reasonable probability the conditions leading to the twins' removal wouldn't be remedied and that continuing the mother-child relationship poses a threat to the children's well-being, wrote Judge Najam.

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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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