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Mistake invalidates termination of dad's rights

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A father's consent to voluntarily terminate his parental rights so his sister could adopt his daughter was invalidated by misrepresentations made by a family case manager for the Department of Child Services. As such, the father's petition to set aside the judgment should have been granted, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Married parents D.L. and T.W. had a daughter, but the child was determined to be a child in need of services shortly after birth. D.L, who lived in Florida because of his work as a contractor, returned to Indiana because of the CHINS proceedings and began participating in weekly supervised visits with his daughter, K.L. The Tippecanoe County DCS placed K.L. in the care of D.L.'s sister, Ann, and her husband, Glen. T.W., who had drug and psychological problems, voluntarily terminated her parental rights so Ann and Glen could adopt the baby. D.L. decided to do the same under the assumption that Ann and Glen would be able to adopt K.L. The TCDCS family case manager investigated Ann and Glen and found no red flags.

D.L.'s parental rights were terminated and Ann and Glen began the adoption process, but TCDCS removed K.L. from the home after discovering a report made by one of Glen's adult daughters that he sexually abused her when she was younger. Charges were never filed. After learning this, D.L. sought to set aside the judgment terminating his parental rights, which the trial court denied.

D.L. argued on appeal that the judgment needed to be set aside based on the family case manager's mistake or misrepresentation in her home study, that the judgment was procured by fraud, and that public policy regarding parents' rights to establish a home and raise their children weighs in favor of setting aside the judgment.

In In the Matter of the Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of K.L.; D.L. v. Tippecanoe County Department of Child Services, No. 79A04-0908-JV-482, the appellate court agreed, finding there were no concerns about D.L.'s involvement in his daughter's life and that his decision to end his parental rights wasn't an attempt to exit his child's life, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander. At the time of his decision, all of the parties thought it was in K.L.'s best interest Ann and Glen adopt her, and there were no red flags regarding past troubles in the home.

Even though D.L. was properly advised of his constitutional and legal rights at the termination hearing in which he proceeded pro se, all the advisements and questions at the hearing were clouded by the misrepresentation contained in the home report study and TCDCS' subsequent actions that served as the basis for K.L.'s placement in Ann and Glen's home and approval for her adoption. If TCDCS or the family case manager had adequately searched the DCS records, K.L. wouldn't have been placed in Ann and Glen's home and her possible adoption by the two wouldn't have been the deciding factor in D.L.'s decision to terminate his parental rights, wrote the judge.

"Under these circumstances, we find that Father's consent to voluntarily terminate his parental rights was vitiated by the misrepresentations made by the TCDCS through (the family case manager)," wrote Judge Friedlander.

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  1. As an adoptive parent, I have to say this situation was as shameful as it gets. While the state government opens its wallet to the Simons and their friends, it denied payments to the most vulnerable in our state. Thanks Mitch!

  2. We as lawyers who have given up the range of First amendment freedom that other people possess, so that we can have a license to practice in the courts of the state and make gobs of money, that we agree to combat the hateful and bigoted discrimination enshrined in the law by democratic majorities, that Law Lord Posner has graciously explained for us....... We must now unhesitatingly condemn the sincerely held religious beliefs of religiously observant Catholics, Muslims, Christians, and Jewish persons alike who yet adhere to Scriptural exhortations concerning sodomites and catamites..... No tolerance will be extended to intolerance, and we must hate the haters most zealously! And in our public explanations of this constitutional garbledygook, when doing the balancing act, we must remember that the state always pushes its finger down on the individualism side of the scale at every turn and at every juncture no matter what the cost to society.....to elevate the values of a minority over the values of the majority is now the defining feature of American "Democracy..." we must remember our role in tricking Americans to think that this is desirable in spite of their own democratically expressed values being trashed. As a secular republic the United States might as well be officially atheist, religious people are now all bigots and will soon be treated with the same contempt that kluckers were in recent times..... The most important thing is that any source of moral authority besides the state be absolutely crushed.

  3. In my recent article in Indiana Lawyer, I noted that grass roots marketing -- reaching out and touching people -- is still one of the best forms of advertising today. It's often forgotten in the midst of all of today's "newer wave" marketing techniques. Shaking hands and kissing babies is what politicians have done for year and it still works. These are perfect examples of building goodwill. Kudos to these firms. Make "grass roots" an essential part of your marketing plan. Jon Quick QPRmarketing.com

  4. Hi, Who can I speak to regarding advertising today? Thanks, Gary

  5. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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