COA affirms termination of parental rights

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected the arguments of a father with a history of domestic violence and other criminal convictions who said evidence was improperly admitted to terminate parental rights to his three daughters.

Father T.F. has three daughters born in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and Marion Superior Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores ordered his parental rights terminated last April. The court found termination was in the children’s best interests and adoption was a satisfactory plan for their care and treatment.

Father appealed, arguing the court admitted hearsay, unqualified expert testimony from therapists and a guardian ad litem involved with the case, and testimony admitted through the GAL as the voice of the children. Judge Elaine Brown wrote a 33-page opinion rejecting these arguments in In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of A.F., D.F. & M.F., Minor Children, T.F., Father v. Indiana Department of Child Services,49A04-1605-JT-1030.

The court found the GAL was not an expert witness bound by Evidence Rule 702. Indeed, under Evidence Rule 701, the GAL’s “opinion was rationally based on her personal observation, knowledge, and past experience, and thus that the court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted her testimony that the children suffered trauma” from cycles of being removed from, then reunited with, their parents.

And while two of the three children expressed a desire to live with father if that was an option, “Under the circumstances and in light of the other evidence including Father’s multiple incarcerations, the recommendation of [a family case manager] that placement and adoption was in the children’s best interests, and [a therapist’s] support for the adoption plan, we cannot say that reversal is warranted.”

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