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Mother not denied due process by denial of motion for continuance

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A mother living in Florida was not denied due process when her motion to continue a termination hearing involving her three children, who were determined to be in need of services in Indiana, was denied by the Cass Circuit Court, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Term. of the Parent-Child Rel. of: S.S., J.S., and C.S. (Minor Children) and, T.S. (Mother) v. The Indiana Dept. of Child Services, 09A02-1211-JT-936, mother T.S. argued she should have been allowed additional time to be present at the termination hearing for her three children because she lives in Florida. T.S. and the three children have been involved with child protective services in three states – including Indiana – due to the mother’s history of domestic violence and the children’s poor health conditions.

After the children were removed from her care in Indiana, but before the termination hearing, T.S. moved to Florida while expecting her fourth child. The Department of Child Services and her attorney communicated with her and told her of the date of the termination hearing, but she did not appear. Her attorney filed a motion for continuance which was denied because the court wanted to move toward establishing permanency for the children, who had been out of mother’s care for almost a year. Several experts testified terminating the parental rights was in the children’s best interests. T.S.’s rights were ended Oct. 22, 2012.

The Court of Appeals noted that the children suffered from medical conditions that required treatment and preventative measures and T.S. did not properly care for them. She was not willing to participate in services and often left the children unattended during visits. Since the children’s removal, they have improved.

The judges found T.S. failed to show prejudice by the termination. She was aware of the date of the termination hearing, had an attorney, and knew how to contact her counsel.

“Upon balancing the Mother’s interest, the risk of error by not having Mother present, and the State’s interest in protecting the welfare of these children, we conclude that under the facts and circumstances of this case, the juvenile court did not deny Mother due process of law when it denied her motion for a continuance,” Judge John Baker wrote.

 

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