As with all cases brought against an individual or family (civil or criminal), the State has the burden of proof. With respect to neglected children (“CHINS”) or children who commit acts that would be crimes (“Juvenile Delinquents”) if an adult, the Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”) acts for the State. In a recent case, a divided Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a Child in Need of Services (“CHINS”) determination against a father. This case has three key holdings or points for parents who may become involved in CHINS proceedings.
First, a CHINS filing (petition) is often made by acts or omissions of one parent. Thus, this creates the situation where one parent may want to admit the CHINS to obtain helpful services and short-cut the duration of the CHINS proceeding. The other parent may want to deny the CHINS for a multitude of reasons, such as the allegation of the CHINS petition, if admitted, would mean the parent has committed a criminal act against or with the child.
In the D.P.1 (child) case, the Court of Appeal reaffirmed and clarified that a mother (in this case) may admit a CHINS petition but this is not necessarily sufficient to adjudicate such true under the burden of proof to the Father. Specifically, the Court held that since mother’s CHINS was related to M.P.’s (father) act, it was not an admission of her conduct or a third party (such as a caregiver) so the admission was not binding upon father or conclusive evidence that D.P. was a CHINS via M.P’s acts. In other words, an unsupported allegation by a parent against the other may not sustain a CHINS burden.
Second and third, the dissent, in this case, shows the need to quickly interact in where children are in harms’ way and perhaps suggests these cases, with strict state and federal time guidelines, will or should have a relaxed evidentiary burdens. The dissent effectively would have allowed a court to take judicial notice that the father was charged and in jail for this domestic violence charge to establish the CHINS, as confirmed by the mother. While this may infer this is not in strict congruity with the Indiana Rules of Evidence, such should be balanced against the need to timely help for the children.
This may signal that were there is evidence that cannot be reasonably inaccurate, such as a more or less official website, the CHINS court may have the discretion to consider it with other evidence. In any circumstance, this case shows the competing balance between the Supreme Court’s rules of evidence, timely needs of a child, and what may be a balance between the two. CHINS case are very technical and driven by comprehensive statutes and caselaw. Failure to comply with CHINS filings may mean the parents’ legal right to his or her children are terminated. Thus, this is a very emotional and important area of law.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C.; our advocates handle CHINS and Delinquency cases throughout the State. This blog post is written for general educational purposes and is not intended to be legal advice, nor applicable in any situation. This blog is advertising material.