The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed on Tuesday the termination of a St. Joseph County father’s parent-child relationship with his daughter after finding no due process violations against him.
In Termination: T.L. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 20A-JT-00883, the Indiana Department of Child Services in October 2018 petitioned to terminate T.L.’s parental rights to his minor daughter, R.S.
T.L., who had been located at a community corrections center in St. Joseph County at the time R.S. was placed in foster care, later failed to comply with a child in need of services order for R.S. that required him to maintain stable and suitable housing, maintain stable employment, complete a parenting assessment, follow all recommendations and participate in random drug screens.
DCS then sought to terminate his parental rights after T.L. continued to use methamphetamine and was arrested in two separate counties. T.L. subsequently failed to appear at the termination hearing, prompting the trial court to grant DCS’s motion for default. After hearing testimony from the family case manager, the trial court ultimately granted the petition to terminate T.L.’s parental rights and issued an order saying he had defaulted.
T.L. motioned to vacate the default judgment but the trial court denied it, prompting him to appeal. But the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, finding T.L.’s due process rights were not violated and that there was sufficient evidence to support the termination.
First, the appellate court concluded that T.L.’s due process rights were not violated when the trial court denied his motion for a continuance at the termination hearing. It likewise rejected T.L.’s reliance on In re Tre.S. 149 N.E.3d 310 (Ind. Ct. App. 2020).
“The facts before us are distinguishable from those in Tre.S. Here, the trial court did not change the date of the hearing, and there was no emergency motion for a continuance. In addition, Father’s counsel was present at the hearing and cross-examined DCS’s witness. Tre.S. does not support Father’s argument, and the trial court in this case did not violate Father’s due process rights when it denied his motion for a continuance,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote for the appellate court.
Additionally, the appellate court found sufficient evidence to support the determination that there was a reasonable probability that the conditions that resulted in R.S.’s continued placement outside the home would not be remedied.
“We reverse a termination of parental rights ‘only upon a showing of ‘clear error’ — that which leaves us with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made,’” the appellate court concluded. “We find no such error here and therefore affirm the trial court.”