COA affirms CHINS adjudication in timeliness argument

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a child in need of services adjudication after concluding the dismissal sanction for failure to timely conduct a CHINS factfinding hearing is not a mechanism to collaterally attack a CHINS adjudication.

In March 2018, K.S.’s three children were adjudicated as CHINS and removed from their mother’s care after one of her kids sustained physical injuries consistent with physical abuse.

Eight months after the adjudication, K.S. filed a motion to dismiss the CHINS case as to her eldest child, J.S., arguing that dismissal was mandatory because the noncontested CHINS factfinding hearing was conducted outside the 120-day window of Indiana Code Section 31-34-11-1.

The Department of Child Services filed an objection to the motion, and after considering K.S.’s motion was made “after the fact,” the juvenile court denied her motion to dismiss.

In her appeal, K.S. argued that the juvenile court made an adjudication absent authority and its order was thus void and subject to attack at any time. But the appellate court disagreed in In the Matter of J.S. (Child in Need of Services) K.S. (Mother) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 18A-JC-2816.

“The statute at issue provides a mechanism to obtain a prompt adjudication of a child’s status. We readily reject the contention that the timeliness requirement of Indiana Code Section 31-34-11-1 provides grounds for setting aside a CHINS adjudication once it has been entered for the benefit and protection of a child,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the appellate panel.

It further stated that there was no conflict to support a declaration that the statutory provision at issue was null and void. 

“The dismissal sanction of Indiana Code Section 31-34-11-1(d) for failure to timely conduct a CHINS factfinding hearing is not a mechanism to collaterally attack a CHINS adjudication,” the panel concluded. “The juvenile court did not err in denying Mother’s motion to dismiss.”

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