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Indiana Court of Appeals Reminds Trial Court of Parents Due Process Rights

The Indiana trial courts and the Department of Child Services (DCS) have repeatedly deprived parents of their Constitutional right to due process over the years. They have continuously failed to recognize that the right of a natural parent is one of the most fundamental rights that an individual has and to take that right away is such an extreme measure.

The Indiana Supreme Court has even expressed their opinion on the involuntary termination of parental rights on referring to it as “an extreme measure that is designed to be used as a last resort when all other reasonable efforts have failed.” See In re. V.A., 51 N.E.3d 1140. Yet, the Indiana trial courts and DCS continue to ignore the higher Indiana courts and terminate parental rights anyways while denying those parents their due process rights.

The most recent case of that the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed on this issue is A.S. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 19A-JT-2915. The trial court in this case terminated a mother’s parental rights during a termination proceeding in which the mother and her attorney could not be present after the court denied the mother’s emergency motion to continue.

In this case, the original termination hearing was set to take place on October 1, 2019. However, DCS requested that the court move the hearing to be scheduled before then because the pre-adoptive parents were in a hurry to resolve the matter. The trial court then set the hearing to occur on August 21 instead of October 1. The mother filed an emergency motion to continue, but it was denied.

The trial court judge and DCS both agreed that there would likely be a due process issue if the hearing occurred without the mother or her attorney present, but that didn’t stop them from terminating the mother’s rights anyway.

The Indiana Court of Appeals issued an opinion on May 27, 2020, and reprimanded the trial court and DCS. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the trial court’s decision to terminate the mother’s rights and stated:

“Nearly two years after we issued this order, DCS continues to file motions to remand conceding that parents’ due-process rights have been violated. This unfortunately means that throughout this state, there continues to be significant violations of parents’ due-process rights in termination-of-parental-rights cases. This case is just one example.”

While the decision issued by the Indiana Court of Appeals is a step in the right direction, it does not mean that the injustices will stop. Parents will have to continue the uphill battle of fighting DCS for their parental rights

If you or someone you know is currently fighting this battle, the attorneys at Massillamany, Jeter & Carson are here to help. Please call our law firm today at (317) 434-1490 to schedule your free case consultation.