Friday, February 17, 2017
Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues 1 today
In Termination: VG, et al. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, an 8-page, 5-0 opinion, Chief Justice Rush writes:
Few liberties are as central to our society as the right of parents to raise their children. Our General Assembly has thus set a high bar for terminating parental rights—requiring a termination petition to allege four defined elements and commanding dismissal when DCS fails to prove each element by clear and convincing evidence.
The first required element establishes three waiting periods to give parents time to reunify with their children, and bars DCS from seeking termination until one of those three periods has passed. Here, DCS failed to allege the only one of those waiting periods that had in fact passed— that Father’s daughters had been removed from him for at least six months under a dispositional decree. Finding this missing element fatal to DCS’s petitions to terminate Father’s parental rights, we reverse and remand. * * *
We realize that DCS’s failure to allege the six-month waiting period was likely a mere drafting error. But a statutory requirement—even one that seems minor or technical—is still a requirement. And here, where that requirement protects the fundamental rights of parents, it takes on particular importance. Terminating Father’s parental rights in spite of this pleading defect therefore requires reversal.
Conclusion. DCS failed to prove the waiting periods it alleged and failed to allege the waiting period it could have proved. We thus reverse the termination of Father’s parental rights regarding his daughters, Bi.B. and Br.B., and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 17, 2017 01:23 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions