Appellate court affirms CHINS order

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a Vanderburgh County children in need of services order after finding the children’s custodian did not make any argument as to why his stipulation to the facts of the CHINS petition should be withdrawn for cause.

In July 2016, the Indiana Department of Child Services filed CHINS petitions for Co.B. and Ce.B., alleging the children’s mother, N.B., and her live-in boyfriend, C.K., engaged in domestic violence in front of Co.B. and that both the mother and C.K. had used drugs. Additionally, the petition alleged C.K. had been arrested for a domestic violence incident involving N.B.

During an initial hearing, both N.B. and C.K.’s attorney told the Vanderburgh Superior Court their clients wanted to stipulate to the facts of the CHINS petition and affidavit, so the judge found both children to be CHINS. However, at a dispositional hearing in August 2016, N.B. and C.K. both indicated that they wanted to withdraw their stipulations, but the judge denied their requests.

C.K. then declared that he wanted the issue to go to trial, but the judge again reminded him that he only had a right to trial before he stipulated to the facts in the CHINS petition. C.K. then chose to appeal, arguing that the court erred in finding the children were CHINS without holding a fact-finding hearing.

But Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in a Friday affirmation of the trial court’s CHINS order that the court had, in fact, held a fact-finding hearing when C.K. and N.B. appeared to stipulate to the facts of the petition.

“The juvenile court then reviewed those materials and, based on the stipulated facts contained in them, made a legal determination that the children were CHINS,” Vaidik wrote for the unanimous panel. “Based on this sequence of events, it appears that (C.K.’s) argument is actually that the juvenile court erred in denying his request to withdraw his stipulation. But as (C.K.) acknowledges on appeal, stipulations generally may only be withdrawn for cause… .”

C.K. “did not set forth any grounds for cause either below or on appeal,” Vaidik wrote, so the appellate panel affirmed the CHINS order in the case of In the Matter of: Ce.B. and Co.B. (Minor Children) and C.K. (Custodian) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 82A01-1610-JC-2442.

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