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Termination of Parental Rights Reversed

Statement of the Case

E.B. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of the parental relationship with her children, A.A.D. (“A.A.D.”) and A.C.D. (“A.C.D.”).
The gravamen of her argument is that reversible error occurred when the trial court failed to ensure the appointment of a court-appointed special advocate (“CASA”) to represent the interests of her children in the termination hearing as required by INDIANA
CODE § 31-35-2-7. Because Mother is correct, we reverse and remand with instructions for the trial court to ensure the appointment of a CASA.  We reverse and remand with instructions.

Issue

The dispositive issue is whether reversible error occurred when the trial court failed to ensure the appointment of a CASA to
represent the interests of Mother’s two children.

Facts

Mother and Father are the parents of A.A.D., who was born in March 2009, and A.C.D., who was born in August 2015. When A.C.D. was born, his meconium tested positive for marijuana. He was also suffering withdrawal symptoms from Suboxone, which Mother had taken while she was pregnant. The Department of Child Services (“DCS”) removed six-year-old A.A.D. and A.C.D. from their parents, and both children were adjudicated to be Children in Need of Services (“CHINS”). In October 2015, the trial court ordered Mother to participate in substance abuse treatment, home-based case management services, and individual therapy. Mother was also ordered to remain drug and alcohol free and to maintain stable housing and employment to meet the needs of her family.

Read the entire opinion here.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis attorney.  He represents families and individuals who are faced with possible Termination of Parental Rights and CHINS (Child in Need of Services) actions initiated by the Department of Child Services.  Contact him here. 

Juvenile Intentionally Skips Hearing, But No Constitutional Violation

When R.R., a seventeen-year-old juvenile, did not appear for the combined factfinding hearings in his juvenile delinquency and probation violation cases, the trial court held the hearings in his absence and found that he committed the charged offenses and violated his probation.

R.R. now appeals, arguing that he had a constitutional right to be present at the hearings and that the trial court violated that right by holding them in his absence. The State argues that R.R. waived any such right by refusing to appear. In response, R.R. argues that under the juvenile waiver statute, Indiana Code Section 31-32-5-1, he could not validly waive that right because he was not emancipated.

We hold that although juveniles have a constitutional right to be present at fact-finding hearings in delinquency and probation proceedings, the trial court had the authority to find R.R. to be in a position of procedural default under the particular facts of this case, where R.R. knowingly and intentionally refused to appear. The legislature would not have intended for the juvenile waiver statute to allow nearly emancipated young adults to ignore trial court orders and thwart the operation of the juvenile justice system by intentionally refusing to appear at dispositional hearings.

Therefore, we affirm.

Read the whole opinion here.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis juvenile lawyer.  Contact him here.

Probation Prohibition on Possession of Firearms Constitutional

Wilder maintains that the condition of probation that prohibits him from possessing firearms during his probation period violates his right to bear arms, as protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 32 of the Indiana Constitution. Probation is a criminal sanction wherein a convicted defendant specifically agrees to accept  conditions upon his behavior in lieu of imprisonment . . .

Purpose to Be Served by Probation Condition

The crime Wilder committed—battery resulting in bodily injury—was, by definition, a crime of violence. I.C. § 35-42-2-1(d)(1). The probation condition at issue here is meant to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who have shown a propensity for violence, and that is a legitimate and important government purpose . . . The fact that Wilder’s violent crime did not involve use of a firearm is not dispositive; it is the propensity of the probationer toward violence that is relevant to the need to prohibit possession of dangerous weapons such as firearms.  The legitimate and important purpose of the probation condition prohibiting possession of firearms, as applied to Wilder, is to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of a probationer whose underlying crime has shown he has a propensity toward violence resulting in harm to others.

Read the full opinion here.

Randall Parr is an attorney in Indianapolis.  If you have been charged with a gun offense, contact him immediately.

Drugs, Substance Abuse Lead to DCS Involvement, Termination of Parental Rights

Facts

K.S. was born on November 11, 2012, to Father and C.B. (Mother). Father and Mother were not married, and Mother was the custodial parent. Prior to 2012, Father had a substance abuse problem; sometime during 2012, he was incarcerated for six months for attempted theft. After his release, he did not visit K.S., per Mother’s request. On March 4, 2015, the Department of Child Services (DCS) filed a petition alleging that K.S. was a child in need of services (CHINS) after Mother gave birth to a drug-positive baby. DCS removed K.S. from Mother’s care and placed her with a relative.

She was not placed with Father because he had recently tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. At the time, Father had little to no relationship with K.S. The trial court ordered that Father have supervised parenting time with K.S. On March 25, 2015, Father admitted that K.S. was a CHINS because he needed to learn how to provide K.S. with a home environment free of substance abuse issues. The trial court found a sufficient factual basis to find K.S. to be a CHINS.

A dispositional hearing took place the same day, during which the trial court ordered Father to participate in home based therapy and home based case management, complete a substance abuse assessment, submit to random drug screens, and follow all recommendations of service providers. On May 1, 2015, K.S. was placed in foster care. A review hearing took place on June 17, 2015. DCS reported that Father had completed one drug screen, which was clean, was not engaged in services, and was participating in parenting time.

K.S.’s foster mother said that K.S. exhibited negative behaviors after Father’s visits. Father stated that he missed his substance abuse assessment because of his work schedule; that he has stable housing and employment and that home based case management may not be necessary for him; and that he was willing to engage in home based therapy. Father requested unsupervised parenting time so that he could work toward a temporary trial visit for K.S. The trial court ordered that Father could have unsupervised parenting time upon completion of five consecutive clean drug
screens . . .

Read the full opinion here.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis attorney.  If DCS or CPS is involved with your family, contact DCS defense attorney Randall Parr today.

Court Reverses Involuntary Commitment to State Hospital

Case Summary
P.B. appeals her involuntary commitment to Evansville State Hospital (“the
Hospital”). We reverse.

Issue
The sole issue before us is whether there is sufficient evidence to support the
trial court’s commitment order.

Facts
P.B. has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress
disorder. In Indiana, P.B. has been in and out of involuntary commitments to
mental hospitals since March 2011. She also has previously been hospitalized
in Virginia and California. She attempted suicide on several occasions, the last
time being in 2014.
P.B.’s most recent hospitalization began on December 5, 2016, when she was
involuntarily committed to a hospital in South Bend. Prior to this commitment,
her treating psychiatrist stated that P.B. was suffering “from symptoms of
paranoia, delusions, and mood lability.” She also had a
recent history of threatening other residents of her apartment complex and
being disruptive. She believed that her family and neighbors were breaking into
her apartment at night and beating her up, and she was calling police two to
three times a day making delusional claims about intruders. Generally, P.B.
believed that her mother was conspiring against her, to harm her and she was
extremely paranoid. P.B. had been “poorly compliant” with outpatient
treatment to address her paranoia and regularly refused to take antipsychotic
medication, believing it was poisonous. On February 13, 2017, P.B. was transferred to the Hospital, a State facility. On
February 14, 2017, the trial court entered an order continuing P.B.’s regular
commitment without hearing. On May 2, 2017, P.B. filed a request for review
and dismissal of her commitment.

Read the entire opinion here.

Contact Randall Parr today if you need a lawyer in Indianapolis or the surrounding area.

Trial Court Failed to Correctly Calculate Marital Pot Total

Statement of the Case
David Scoggin (“Husband”) appeals the trial court’s division of assets pursuant to the dissolution of his marriage to Melony Scoggin-Sommers (“Wife”). On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in assessing the marital pot because it omitted certain marital assets and incorrectly valued certain assets. He also argues that the trial court abused its discretion in determining that Wife had rebutted the presumption in favor of an equal division of property. We agree that the trial court erred by failing to include all of the assets in the marital pot and by failing to accurately value all of the assets. We also conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Wife had rebutted the presumption in favor of an equal division of assets. We remand to the trial court with instructions to include the omitted marital assets with correct valuations in the marital pot. The trial court may then distribute the marital assets in accordance with this amended assessment of the marital pot and its finding that Wife rebutted the presumption in favor of equal division.

We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

Issues
1. Whether the trial court erred in calculating the marital pot.
2. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it
determined that Wife had rebutted the presumption in favor of
an equal distribution of the assets.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis divorce lawyer. Contact him today.

Read the entire opinion here.

No Attorney’s Fees in Complex Guardianship, Estate Matter

STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Appellants-Respondents, Raymond L. Lamey, M.D. (Raymond) and Ramona Lamey (Mona) (collectively, Appellants), Co-Guardians of the Person of Darvin Henry Lamey and Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Darvin Henry Lamey, appeal the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law granting the payment of attorney fees to Appellees-Petitioners, Ziemer,
Stayman, Weitzel & Shoulders, LLP (ZSWS) and Kolb Roellgen & Kichoff, LLP (Kolb), incurred during their representation of the protected person.  We affirm.

ISSUES
Appellants present this court with two issues on appeal, which we restate as follows:

(1) Whether the trial court properly granted payment of attorney fees to ZSWS when ZSWS entered into an attorney-client relationship with Darvin Henry Lamey (Darvin) while Darvin was a protected person and under a guardianship, and entered into this relationship without the knowledge of Darvin’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and without contracting with the guardian
of his estate; and

(2) Whether the trial court properly granted payment of attorney fees to Kolb when Kolb entered into an attorney-client relationship with Darvin, without the knowledge of Darvin’s GAL, and without contracting with the guardian of his
estate, for purposes of modifying Darvin’s estate plan and making an election under the Virginia Lamey Trust.

ZSWS and Kolb present this court with two issues on appeal, which we restate as:

(1) Whether Appellants can bring this interlocutory appeal of right even though Appellants were not ordered to pay any amount of money; and

(2) Whether ZSWS and Kolb are entitled to appellate attorney fees pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rule 66(E).

In addition, Kolb presents this court with one issue on appeal, which we restate
as: Whether Appellants have standing to pursue this appeal.

Click here for the entire opinion.

Randall Parr is an attorney in Indianapolis who handles family, guardianship, and estate matters.

Plea Deal Cannot Waive Right to Modify Sentence

In 2013, Pebble Stafford pleaded guilty to three charges, including Class B felony dealing in a controlled substance. Her plea agreement purported to waive her right to seek later modification of her sentence. After the General Assembly amended the sentence modification statute in 2014, Stafford petitioned the trial court for a sentence modification. The trial court granted that motion, and the State now appeals. We affirm and remand with instructions.

Facts
On July 18, 2013, the State charged Stafford with Class B felony dealing in a controlled substance. Stafford was also facing two unrelated charges in two other separate cause numbers.
On June 10, 2014, Stafford entered into a plea agreement resolving all three cases. She agreed to plead guilty to Class B felony dealing in a controlled substance, Class B misdemeanor possession of substance to interfere with a screening test, and Class C felony battery. The agreement provided that she would receive consecutive sentences of six years in the Department of Correction (DOC) with none suspended for the Class B felony; thirty days in the Jefferson County Jail with none suspended for the Class B misdemeanor; and four years in the DOC with none suspended, with direct placement to community corrections for the Class C felony battery.

Click here to read the entire opinion.

Randall Parr is a criminal defense attorney in Indianapolis.  Contact him today.

Court of Appeals: Grandfather Cannot File Paternity Action

When S.A.M. was born, M.M. (“Father”) signed a paternity affidavit and became S.A.M.’s legal father. Over time, suspicion arose that another man, B.H., was S.A.M.’s biological father. However, B.H. died before paternity tests were conducted. Thereafter, B.H.’s father, M.H., filed a paternity action to
determine whether S.A.M. was the biological child of B.H. During that proceeding, Father entered into a mediation agreement (“Mediation
Agreement”) with M.H. Father later asked the trial court to declare that Agreement void ab initio, but the trial court denied his motion. Father now appeals that denial, raising the following restated issues:
(1) Whether the trial court erred when it concluded M.H. had standing as S.A.M.’s next friend to file a petition to establish B.H.’s paternity of S.A.M.;
(2) Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Father’s request to declare void the Mediation Agreement;
(3) Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Father’s request for attorney fees.

We reverse and remand.

Read the whole opinion.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis family law attorney.  Contact him today.

Trial Court Must Make Proper Findings to Support Termination of Parental Rights

A.O. (“Mother”) and H.W. (“Father”) (collectively “the Parents”) appeal the order of the Bartholomew Superior Court terminating their parental rights to their minor child R.W. Concluding that the trial court’s order is insufficiently specific as to the basis of the trial court’s decision to terminate the Parents’ parental rights, we remand for the entry of proper findings and conclusions that
support the trial court’s termination decision.

Facts and Procedural History

R.W. was born in October 2014 to Mother and Father. In April 2015, the Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”) received a report that Mother and Father were homeless and using illicit drugs. Mother, who was living in a homeless shelter at the time, admitted to using marijuana and methamphetamine. As a result, DCS removed R.W. from the Parents’ care and, on April 9, 2015, filed a petition alleging that R.W. was a child in need of services (“CHINS”). A detention hearing was held that same day, and the trial court approved placement of R.W. with Mother’s aunt (“Aunt”). The Parents denied the allegations in the CHINS petition, and the trial court set the matter for a fact-finding hearing. However, at the May 26, 2015 fact-finding hearing, the Parents admitted to the allegations, and the trial court adjudicated R.W. to be a CHINS.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis attorney who handles CHINS and juvenile criminal defense matters.  Contact him today.

Find the entire opinion here.