Mother not denied due process by not having appointed counsel in CHINS case

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While disappointed that a trial court did not follow through with the appointment of counsel for a mother regarding a child in need of services action, any error in that failure was harmless, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. It upheld the termination of mother J.A.’s parental rights to her son G.P.

G.P. was removed from his mother’s home as an infant due to allegations he was a CHINS, which the court later found to be true. The boy was placed with his paternal grandparents. The goal was reunification, but J.A. did not complete certain services, including keeping the Department of Child Services up to date with her contact information and discontinuing drug use. During a review hearing, she requested counsel, which the trial court found she was entitled to. However, the court never appointed an attorney and J.A. never mentioned her lack of representation at a future hearing.

J.A. later moved to her mother’s house in Virginia without notifying DCS and the plan for permanency and reunification was changed to adoption. The mother did not appear at the adoption hearings, but at some point counsel was appointed to represent her. Her attorney sought to dismiss or continue the case, arguing she had been deprived of her due process rights when an attorney wasn’t appointed during the CHINS case. J.A.’s parental rights were terminated.

“Mother argues that having counsel would have allowed her to inform the court of things such as her reasons for moving, the steps she was taking toward sobriety, and her current living arrangement with her mother. It is not clear why counsel was needed to inform the court, when Mother could have informed the court herself if she had appeared for the hearings,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote in In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of G.P., and J.A. v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 49A02-1208-JT-643.

“It was the sum total of Mother’s actions (or inaction) by the time of the termination hearing, nearly a year later, that ultimately led to termination. This included her continuing failure to complete services in that time period, her lack of communication with DCS, and the questionable appropriateness of the home that she could provide at that time,” she continued.

The COA found that J.A.’s due process rights weren’t violated and there was sufficient evidence to support the termination.



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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.