COA splits over terminating parental rights to twins

September 29, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision to terminate the parental rights of a mother to her twin daughters based on insufficient evidence, although one judge believed the termination should have been upheld. The court unanimously affirmed the decision to end her parental rights to her son.

Mother A.C. appealed the termination of parental rights regarding son N.G. and daughters L.C. and M.C., who were 11 and eight, respectively, when the judgment was issued. They were removed from her care after N.G. was hit with a belt and was injured; A.C. claimed her boyfriend did it; N.G. alleged his mother had hit him.

Mother is bipolar and has a history of not taking her medication and physically abusing N.G., who has been seeing therapists since he was 3 years old.

The children were removed from her care in 2011 and placed with their father, but then moved to foster care when father was convicted of molesting his stepdaughter. Mother did not always comply with parenting and therapy sessions as ordered and was not always able to control her children’s behavior during supervised visits. But at the time of the termination, she had a stable home, remarried, was employed, and had consistently had taken her medication for bipolar disorder for six months.

The majority, in In the Matter of the Term. of the Parent-Child Relationship of: N.G., L.C., and M.C. (Minor Children), and A.C. (Mother) v. The Ind. Dept. of Child Services, 02A04-1412-JT-605, reversed termination regarding the twins due to lack of evidence. Judge John Baker, writing for the majority, noted that there is no evidence the girls were physically abused.

“DCS’s case in support of termination in regard to L.C. and M.C. rests entirely on the premise that the children suffer emotionally as a result of contact with Mother. However, as previously discussed, the evidence does not indicate that L.C. and M.C.’s negative reactions towards Mother are anything other than the foreseeable consequence of years of separation with limited contact,” he wrote.

Judge James Kirsch would uphold mother’s termination regarding the twins, noting that it might be “a close call,” but deference to the trial court’s decision should be given in these matters. He pointed to the girls’ behavior following the visits with their mother, which included nightmares, bedwetting, and crying. He was also not swayed by her recent decision to stay on medication.

But the judges agreed that mother’s parental rights should be terminated regarding N.G. as it is in his best interest and supported by evidence given mother’s past inability to control his behavior and her history of resorting to physical abuse.


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