Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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After K.W., a minor child, was removed from the care of Mother and Father, the Department of Child Services (DCS) sought to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father. On the day of the termination hearing, Mother’s attorney sought a continuance based on Mother’s incarceration in a local jail. The trial court denied the motion and held a termination of parental rights (TPR) hearing in Mother’s absence. The court then issued an order terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father with respect to K.W. The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the trial court’s order terminating Mother’s parental rights, holding that the trial court, under the facts of this case, abused its discretion by denying Mother’s motion to continue the TPR hearing and by proceeding without her participation. View "In re Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of K.W. and C.C." on Justia Law

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The County Department of Child Services filed a petition to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of Mother to her four children. The case was tried to a judge who resigned before reporting recommended findings and conclusions to Judge Marilyn Moores. The case was transferred to Magistrate Larry Bradley, who reviewed the hearing record and reported recommended findings and conclusions without holding a new evidentiary hearing. Judge Moores approved the findings and conclusions and terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment, holding that, in accord with In re I.P., also decided today, the procedure used in this case violated Mother’s due process rights. Remanded. View "In re Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of S.B." on Justia Law

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The County Department of Child Services filed a petition to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of Father to his child. At the conclusion of the termination hearing, the magistrate that presided over the hearing resigned her position before reporting recommended factual findings and conclusions to Judge Marilyn Moores. The case was subsequently transferred to Magistrate Larry Bradley, who reviewed the hearing record and reported recommended findings and conclusions without holding a new evidentiary hearing. Judge Moores approved the findings and conclusions and terminated Father’s parental rights. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where a case is tried to a judge who resigns before determining the issues, a successor judge cannot decide the issues or enter findings without a trial de novo. Remanded. View "In re Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of I.P." on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Department of Child Services (DCS) filed a petition alleging that G.P. was a child in need of services (CHINS) because Mother had a history of drug abuse. At an initial hearing before the CHINS court, Mother waived her right to counsel. G.P. was found to be a CHINS. At a subsequent CHINS review hearing, Mother requested counsel. The trial court concluded that Mother was entitled to representation but did not then actually appoint counsel for Mother. After additional CHINS hearings, at which Mother remained unrepresented, DCS filed an action to terminate the parental rights (TPR) of Mother with respect to G.P. The trial court appointed counsel to represent Mother during the TPR process at Mother’s request. Mother’s parental rights were subsequently terminated, and G.P. was adopted by his paternal grandparents. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court judgment terminating Mother’s parental rights because Mother was denied her statutory right to counsel during the course of the CHINS proceedings, and those proceedings directly influenced the TPR process. View "J.A. v. Ind. Dep't of Child Servs. & Child Advocates, Inc." on Justia Law

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Father had two children with Mother. From 2001 onward, Father was required to pay child support. Father was also incarcerated for the majority of those years. In 2011, Mother married her boyfriend, E.J., and Mother and E.J. petitioned for E.J. to adopt the children. The trial court granted the petitions. Father subsequently filed a letter that the trial court treated as a notice of appeal. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the order of adoption, holding that sufficient evidence in the record supported the trial court’s decision. View "In re Adoption of T.L." on Justia Law

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In 2008, one-year-old E.M. and his newborn sister El.M. were adjudicated children in need of services (CHINS) based on father’s repeated domestic violence against Mother. By mid-2010, both Mother and Father had ceased receiving services from the Department of Child Services (DCS), and DSC petitioned to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. The trial court subsequently terminated Father’s parental rights, and Father appealed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court placed too much weight on Father’s past conduct without adequately taking into consideration evidence of changed conditions at the time of the termination hearing. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals opinion, holding (1) the court of appeals contravened the standard of review by reweighing the evidence; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support termination. View "E.M. v. Ind. Dep't of Child Servs." on Justia Law

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After one of Mother’s five children, a toddler, was rushed to the emergency room and placed on a ventilator, Mother consented to the Department of Child Services (DCS) removing the other four children from her care to let her focus on the toddler’s treatment. DCS initiated child in need of services (CHINS) proceedings over all five of the children based on the toddler’s special medical needs and Mother’s lack of steady housing and other needs for the children. After a fact-finding hearing, the trial court released wardship to Mother’s four oldest children but did find the toddler in need of services because no one in the home had “completed the medical training needed” to meet the toddler’s special medical needs. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment that the toddler was a child in need of services, holding that because Mother had voluntarily addressed all but one of DCS’s concerns to the trial court’s satisfaction and because the evidence failed to show that Mother was likely to need the court’s coercive intervention to complete that final item, the trial court abused its discretion in determining that the toddler was a child in need of services. View "In re S.D." on Justia Law

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Mother and Father were divorced in 1999 pursuant to a decree that approved the parties' comprehensive settlement agreement under which Mother was granted physical custody of the parties' two children. In 2011, Father sought to modify the decree. The trial court modified the prior child support order in several respects. Father appealed. The court of appeals reversed, inter alia, the trial court's determination of credits for Mother's health insurance costs and Father's Social Security benefits. The Supreme Court granted transfer and (1) affirmed the trial court on the issues of health insurance costs and Social Security benefits, holding that the trial court's approach was appropriate in this case; and (2) summarily affirmed the court of appeals in all other respects. View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Mother informed the Department of Child Services (DCS) that her son (Son) had been molested by her twelve-year-old nephew (Nephew). During a subsequent investigation, Nephew admitted to inappropriately touching Son and one of Mother's daughters (Daughter). Mother, however, was not informed of Nephew's molestation of Daughter. Nephew was adjudicated delinquent and placed on probation, but Mother was not informed of Nephew's adjudication. Mother was later informed of Nephew's admission to the molestation of Daughter from a third party. Mother and Father (Plaintiffs) filed suit against DCS and the Evansville Police Department (EPD), alleging negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment to all defendants on grounds of immunity. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed summary judgment in favor of EPD, holding that EPD was immune from Plaintiffs' claims under the Indiana Tort Claims Act (Act); but (2) reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of DCS, concluding that it was not immune under either the Act or the child abuse reporting statute. Remanded. View "F.D. v. Ind. Dep't of Child Servs." on Justia Law

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Upon the divorce of Mother and Father, Father was awarded physical custody of the parties' two children. Five years later, Mother filed a motion to modify actual physical custody of both children. Without an evidentiary hearing, the trial court summarily granted Mother's motion to modify custody and awarded custody of the two children to Mother. On appeal, Father argued that the trial court erred in modifying the prior custody order without an evidentiary hearing and without issuing findings regarding the best interest of the children. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's order, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the trial court's summary resolution, without a hearing where witnesses could be sworn and testimony heard and without the consent of the parties, was an abuse of discretion. Remanded. View "Wilson v. Myers" on Justia Law