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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides two CHINS cases this afternoon

In In the Matter of K.D. & K.S.; S.S. v. The Indiana Dept. of Child Services and Child Advocates, Inc., a 13-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice David writes:

We have granted transfer in this case where a party to a CHINS matter requested a fact-finding hearing and was instead given a contested dispositional hearing. We write to clarify any ambiguity that exists regarding the differences between a CHINS adjudication and the procedural due process safeguards that are in place for parties to a CHINS disposition. We hold that a parent who requests a contested fact-finding hearing has a due process right to that hearing. * * *

While a CHINS determination establishes the status of a child and a separate analysis as to each parent is not automatically required, as In re N.E. established, there are fact-sensitive situations where due process guarantees require separate fact findings for each parent. The due process of the parties and the status of the child are mutually exclusive. Whenever a trial court is confronted with one parent wishing to make an admission that the child is in need of services and the other parent wishing to deny the same, the trial court shall conduct a fact-finding hearing as to the entire matter. We remand to the trial court to provide Stepfather with a fact-finding hearing.

In In the Matter of T.N.; G.N. v. The Indiana Dept. of Child Services and Child Advocates, Inc., a 4-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice David writes:
In this case, a party to a CHINS matter requested a fact-finding hearing and was instead given a contested dispositional hearing. This Court has also decided a companion case today, In re K.D., which will be discussed below. Our opinion seeks to clarify the procedural due process safeguards required in CHINS adjudications. We hold that a parent who requests a contested fact-finding hearing has a due process right to that hearing. * * *

Whenever a trial court is confronted with one parent wishing to admit and one parent wishing to deny the child is in need of services, the trial court shall conduct a fact-finding hear-ing, assuring due process to all parties. It is ultimately in the child’s best interest that the parents are given due process at all stages of the proceeding. In this instance, the contested dispositional hearing did not replace the due process rights father lost when he was not allowed a contested fact-finding hearing. We remand this case to the trial court for a fact-finding hearing as to father.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 13, 2012 03:12 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions