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No partial parental right termination allowed

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Indiana law doesn't allow for partial termination of parental rights, the state's Court of Appeals has ruled in a case of first impression.

But holding that, the appellate court has upheld a Howard County judge's two-fold decision to first approve a voluntary parental-right termination agreement reserving a right for post-adoptive visitation privileges, and subsequently denying to set aside a later decision to terminate that visitation. The appellate court found that though the trial court didn't abuse its descretion in this case, the panel expressed serious concerns with what happened and noted it could present problems in the future.

"Trial courts are cautioned to refrain from approving post-termination agreements such as these in the future as they are contrary to Indiana law and are likely, under a different set of circumstances, to provide false hope to parents facing termination of their parental rights," Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the unanimous panel, reluctantly affirming the ruling from Howard Circuit Judge Lynn Murray.

In the parental termination matter involving minors M.B. and S.B., the court issued its 25-page decision today in Tiffany Black v. Howard County Department of Child Services, No. 34A02-0805-JV-437.

The case stems from a county child services petition in March 2007 for involuntary termination parental rights for Black. The natural father is deceased. Prior to a fact-finding hearing in June 2007, the mother filed a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights for each child. But she attached addendums that stipulated the terminations hinged on the court granting post-adoption privileges, such as continued contact between her and the children.

The trial court advised Black that the termination couldn't be set aside unless it was fraudulent, or that it was under duress or she wasn't competent at the time, but it accepted the submitted agreements and later that day ordered the voluntary parental rights termination. She was permitted to continue visiting with both children twice a month, until the children were placed with adoptive parents who didn't know about the visitation agreement. The child services agency later recommended visitation be terminated and the court agreed, noting it wasn't in the children's best interest. Earlier this year, the trial court denied the mother's motion to set aside the voluntary termination order in that the judge didn't abide by the terms or that it was fraudulently obtained.

In holding that partial parental right terminations don't exist in Indiana, the appellate court made it clear it finds the mother's agreement contrary to state statute.

"Either the parent-child relationship survives, or it does not," the court wrote. "Given the plain and unambiguous language of Indiana Code Section 31-35-6-4(a)(1), coupled with Indiana's strong public policy to protect the emotional well-being of children whose parents have been either unable or unwilling to provide for their basic needs over a prolonged period of time, we conclude that the Mother's addendums to the voluntary consent forms are void ab initio and thus unenforceable as a matter of law."

Her agreement was an attempt to sidestep state law and "bootstrap" otherwise impermissible conditions into a termination order, Judge Brown wrote. Allowing that to happen would tie a trial court's hands and those of any child services agency, and would discourage adoption.

"Few prospective parents would endeavor to embark on the life-changing journey of adoption knowing they could find themselves the ready prey of possible unscrupulous parents who were contractually entitled to demand post-adoption visitation and other parental privileges following a termination of the parent-child relationship," she wrote.

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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