Court reinstates father’s rights

The Indiana Supreme Court reinstated a father’s parental rights, determining there was not enough evidence to support termination.

The father challenged the trial court’s decision that there is a reasonable probability the conditions necessitating the child’s removal will not be remedied. The mother is mentally ill, and the child was removed when it was determined the mother would be dangerous and the father would not live apart from the mother.

The Supreme Court found, however, that the refusal to live apart on its own was not enough reason to terminate his parental rights. Also, the mother requested help in the first place, which is why the child was taken away. The child was not abused in the mother’s presence, and mental disability alone is not a basis for termination.

When looking at whether conditions would improve, the Supreme Court said the trial court erred. The father never said he wouldn’t ensure the mother never had unsupervised care, as the trial court said. Also, the mother’s inability to care for the child should have no bearing on the father’s parental rights.

The trial court also concluded that termination is in the best interests of the child, but Justice Robert Rucker said the rights of parents to raise their children should not be terminated solely because there is a better home available for them.

Rucker said the foster family is willing to keep the child as long as needed, and the father has done everything he can to keep up his relationship with the child, finding suitable employment and a place to live, and keeping in touch with her throughout court proceedings.

The case is In Re the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of V.A. (Minor Child), and A.A. (Father) v. Indiana Department of Child Services,02S04-1602-JT-93.

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