COA rejects father’s definition of 'home' in parental rights case

October 27, 2015

The “home” that is referred to in the statute allowing for the termination of parental rights is the home of the child and not the home of a particular parent, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday, rejecting a father’s argument in his appeal of the termination of his parental rights.

In In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of A.G. (Minor Child): A.M. (Father) v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 20A03-1502-JT-61, A.M. raised the argument that his paternity over A.G. was not established until four months before the termination proceedings, and as a result, the statutory requirement of removal from “the home” for 15 of the most recent 22 months cannot be met.

A.G. was born severely addicted to drugs and placed into foster care, where he remains. His father’s identity was not confirmed until months later, when DNA testing revealed A.M. is his father. A.M. has spent nearly five of the last seven years incarcerated and was in prison in Florida when his son was born. A.M. has three older children, with whom he has contact, but they do not live with him and he provides no support. A.M. has never met A.G.

The Department of Child Services petitioned for involuntary termination of his and the mother’s parental rights. The trial court terminated his parental rights following a hearing, citing A.M.’s frequent time in prison and his lack of relationship with the child.

The appeals court rejected all of father’s claims on appeal, finding his son was constructively removed from the father and that the boy has been living with foster parents since his birth, which is 18 consecutive months.

“Here, both Indiana Code section 31-35-2-4.5 and 42 U.S.C. section 675(5)(E) use similar language to require DCS to file a petition to terminate parental rights once a child has been under its supervision for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months. With respect to the fifteen-month time constraint in the federal and Indiana statutes, the focus of the inquiry is the length of time the child has been in temporary custody, not the length of time the child was removed from a particular parent,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

The COA also agreed there is reasonable probability the conditions resulting in A.G.’s removal will not be remedied given father’s history of incarceration and lack of a relationship with his child; and that termination is in the boy’s best interests.


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