One of the most difficult cases Ciyou & Dixon attorneys face as domestic advocates is with CHINS (Child in Need of Services - Ind.Code § 31-34-1-1) proceedings that is re-filed and turns to a TPR case (Termination of Parental Rights - Ind.Code § 31-35-2-1). What occurs is a parent or parents do not respond to coercive interventions of the court and to protect the children, the DCS (Indiana Department of Child Services) may file a suit to terminate the legal rights of such parents.
On February 14, 2012, the Indiana Court of Appeals, on rehearing, affirmed it prior decision in Termination of the Parent-Child Relationships of C.M., G.M., and R.M.S. and thereby clarified that a parent’s shortcomings must be at the present time, not merely based on past parenting difficulties. DCS argued on rehearing that this imposed an undue burden on its role in protecting children by enforcing the statutory language that DCS had to make a prima facie showing regarding a parent’s current situation before the parent had any burden in the termination case.
In other words, evidence of historical acts or omissions by parents is insufficient to be paramount over current or changed conditions of parents in CHINS relative to their present ability to raise their children.
This means that DCS must put on evidence such that it is self-evident or facially apparent that at the current time a parent cannot parent without threat to the child and as such termination is in the child’s best interests. Therefore DCS simply cannot rely on past evidence to support of termination (to legally sever) a parent-child relationship.
This distinction may bother some readers, as it inherently involves reunifying children with parents and taking them out of the care of others who might provide a better and more stable environment. It is critical to note, however, there is a fundamental right to raise one’s children guaranteed by the United States Constitution applicable to the states by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution - In re the Guardianship of B.H. and S.H., 770 N.E.2d 283 (Ind.2002).
If this biog post helps you understand the tension between various legal rights, and the difficult job litigants, DCS and courts face, it has met its goal. Further, if this is a situation you are involved in as a parent or a third-party, it is hoped this provides insights into why cases sometimes work out the way they do, children being reunified with their parents or a parent in a similar case having his or her parental rights terminated.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice throughout the State of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney Bryan L. Ciyou.