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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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