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Judges uphold termination of parental rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found ample evidence that a mother took little to no steps to correct the problems that led to her son’s removal and continued placement out of her care, so it affirmed the termination of parental rights. In its opinion, the judges also discussed Indiana Evidence Rule 201(b) regarding judicial notice of “records of a court of this state.”

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of D.K.; O.K. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, No. 22A01-1110-JT-485, mother O.K. appealed the termination of her parental rights to her son, D.K. He was removed from O.K.’s care in 2009 and placed in foster care after the Department of Child Services substantiated a report of neglect. D.K. was adjudicated as a child in need of services and O.K. was ordered to participate in several programs and obtain stable housing and employment. Over the course of the next two years, she lived at eight different residences, didn’t participate in services, and didn’t keep a job.

At the hearing to terminate her parental rights, she said she had just put a deposit down on an apartment with the help of her father and boyfriend. The trial court terminated her parental rights in 2011.

The appellate court found clear and convincing evidence that the conditions that led to D.K.’s initial removal and continued placement outside of his mother’s care would not be remedied. She had an opportunity to reunite with him, but instead was concerned more with her own desires than her son’s welfare.

The judges also discussed the fact that at the termination hearing, DCS asked the trial court to take judicial notice of the underlying CHINS proceedings, and the trial court agreed to do so. In its brief, the DCS related facts that are based on documents filed in the CHINS action that aren’t support by any evidence actually introduced at the termination of parental rights hearing. Neither party provided these documents for appellate review.

The trial court didn’t err in taking judicial notice of the CHINS proceedings based on Rule 201(b), but judicial review can present problems for appellate review, noted Judge Michael Barnes, citing the post-conviction case Graham v. State, 941 N.E.2d 1091, 1097. TPR cases are similar to PCR cases in that they often must refer to and rely heavily on records in different, but related proceedings, he wrote.

“In that respect, what we noted in Graham applies equally here, and in fact in any situation where a trial court takes judicial notice of records of another court proceeding in deciding a case. Evidence Rule 201(b) now allows trial courts to take judicial notice of records of other court proceedings, but if a court does so, there must be some effort made to include such 'other' records in the record of the current proceeding,” he wrote. “Furthermore, if a party on appeal wishes to rely on parts of the ‘other’ record or records in making an argument before this court, it should include those parts in an appendix submitted to this court under Indiana Appellate Rule 50.”
 

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