How does the CHINS process work?

The CHINS process begins because the Department of Child Services believes something has happened involving a child or children. The law lists several categories that can begin the CHINS process: child neglect; child physical abuse; child sexual abuse; parental allowance of child’s participation in sex offenses; child endangerment of self or others; parental failure to participate in school disciplinary proceedings; missing child; child born with fetal alcohol syndrome or with drugs; abnormal child development because the mother used alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.

When a DCS case manager is assigned to a case, they investigate the reports or allegations, often by interviewing different people. This is called an assessment. Based on the assessment, DCS classifies the report as substantiated or unsubstantiated. If the report is unsubstantiated, that means DCS has decided the evidence does not show a CHINS action should be pursued. If the report is substantiated, then DCS/CPS can offer to provide an Informal Adjustment, which involves the family participating in services under court order. The case manager can also ask DCS to file a CHINS petition, including if the Informal Adjustment fails or other acts occur.

If a CHINS petition is filed, you have certain rights. It is critical that you contact a lawyer that has experience dealing with DCS and CPS to discuss your rights and options.

At the Initial Hearing, the parents will either admit or deny the CHINS allegations. This is similar to a guilty or not guilty plea–but CHINS are civil and not criminal cases. If the parents or a parent admit, then the court will decide that the child is a CHINS and hold a dispositional hearing. The dispositional hearing is where the court decides what services should be ordered for the family.

If the parents deny, then a fact-finding hearing is set. The fact-finding hearing is a trial. If the court decides there is not enough evidence to adjudicate (rule) the child a CHINS, the issue is dismissed. If the court adjudicates the child a CHINS, then there will be a dispositional hearing. The court will also have periodic hearings to review the status of the CHINS and family. If the parents fail to comply with the court order or if the CHINS goes on long enough, then DCS can file to terminate the parental rights of a parent or parents.

The CHINS process and dealing with DCS and CPS is extremely complicated and tiring. Having a lawyer on your side that will fight for you and your family is extremely important. Contact Randall or Riley Parr today at 317-632-9322 or 765-335-2432.

New Attorney Joins Randall Parr as Of Counsel

Riley Parr, who was admitted to practice law on May 5, 2020, joins his dad as a lawyer practicing law in central Indiana. The oldest of Randall’s three sons, Riley practices with his dad in an Of Counsel capacity. He primarily works out of the Lebanon office, where he focuses much of his time on appellate work, criminal defense, family law, and defending families against CPS allegations. He also assists Randall on a wide-range of cases. Riley recently graduated from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, where he finished in the top 3% of his class.

You can learn more about Riley by visiting his LinkedIn page: or by checking out the updated page:

Riley can be reached directly at 765-335-2432.

Child Support Basics

A parent can seek child support in several different circumstances, including when there has been a divorce, legal separation, or if paternity of a child has been established.  Beginning the process of child support is just like any other lawsuit and includes the same procedures.  Providing as much information as possible is essential to making sure your child gets the proper amount of child support.

There are several factors that courts consider when deciding how much child support a person should pay: the financial resources of the custodial parent; the standard of living the child would have had if the parties had not divorced, separated, or if the parents were married, stayed married to each other; the physical or mental condition of the child and the child’s educational needs; and the financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent. None of these individual factors decide the amount of child support. Usually, courts require a financial disclosure to help them decide how much child support is correct.

A parent can also be ordered to pay for education and health care costs as part of a child support order.

Generally speaking, a child support order stops once the child is emancipated, which most often happens when the child turns 19.  However, the law makes certain exceptions, including if the child continues on to post-high school education.  Parents may be required to contribute to those costs.

The broad principles of the child support system are to set as state policy a proper standard of support for children, with consideration of the ability of the parents to contribute financially to that support; to make sure that parents that are in similar situations are treated the same (we don’t want somebody who makes the same as somebody else to have to pay way more child support, absent important reasons); and to help parties reach agreements between themselves and out of court, to the extent possible.

As an Indianapolis family law attorney who has experience practicing in the area of child support, I can either help you establish and collect child support, or defend you against allegations that you might owe child support.  I have helped many clients with their child support issues since 1981. Contact me to learn more.

How do I get custody of my child?

Trying to get custody of your child or children can sometimes seem like an uphill battle. The saying “two steps forward, one step back” could describe what you’re going through. Seeking custody of your children is very complicated and there are many laws that apply.  Unfortunately, child custody fights can become very divisive and emotionally draining.  Often, people will lie and make accusations to try and gain the upper-hand.  Trying to help the judge understand your particular situation can be especially difficult because many different parties can be involved, like Guardian-ad-Litems (GALs), social service agencies, the court system, and of course the parties seeking custody. 

The short answer is that you have to show the judge that it is in the child’s best interests for you to have custody. Pretty much everything in a child custody case revolves around trying to answer this question, in one form or another.

Courts take into account virtually every possible factor when trying to decide a child’s best interest–and unlike in the past, there is no presumption for or against either parent (states used to, and some still do, have a “tender years” presumption that mothers are better custodian for younger children).  Indiana law lays out several, non-exhaustive factors that courts consider, such as: the age and sex of the child; the wishes of the child’s parents or parents; the wishes of the child, especially if the child is fourteen (14) or older; the interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents or parents, the child’s siblings, or anyone else that might significantly impact the child’s best interests; the child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community; the mental and physical health of all people involved; evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence; if a child has been cared for by a “de facto” custodian”; a power of attorney the child’s parent or a de facto custodian of the child.  

It is a child custody lawyer’s job to understand all important facts, figure out their legal implications, and then present them in the best light to the judge. In contested custody disputes, it’s not just explaining why you should be the custodial parent. It can also be why the other party should not be the custodian.

Sometimes, a person can be the de facto custodian of a child.  In order to determine if such a situation applies, courts will consider: the wishes of the child’s de facto custodian; the extent to which the child has been cared for, nurtured, and supported by the de facto custodian; the intent of the child’s parent in placing the child with the de facto custodian; the circumstances under which the child was allowed to remain in the custody of the de facto custodian (this also includes several sub-factors).  If a court decides that somebody is a de facto custodian, the court will make that person a party to the custody proceedings.  In that case, the court will use the “best interests” analysis to decide custody.  And if the court decides it is in the best interests of the child for the de facto custodian to have custody, then the de facto custodian becomes the legal custodian of the child. 

Certain parts of Indiana law might also apply if a parent has been convicted of a crime that involves domestic or family violence. 

It is very important that you have an experienced child custody lawyer on your side that knows the law, has practiced in this area for decades, and can work with you to do what’s best for your child.  Contact Indianapolis family law attorney Randall Parr to begin the custody process.

Claim Preclusion Applies When DCS Filed CHINS Petitions

In a decision handed down in the last few days of June, In the Matter of Eq.W., M.W., A.W., S.W., and Ez.W. (Minor Children); V.B. (Mother) vs. Indiana Department of Child Services, the Indiana Supreme Court concluded that claim preclusion (also called res judicata) applies to Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases. This article provides a birds-eye explanation of the case and what it means moving forward.

Claim preclusion is a procedural doctrine that prevents re-litigating the same basic claim. There’s another type of preclusion, called issue preclusion, but that wasn’t one of the issues in the case the Court decided. Basically, claim preclusion exists to prevent one party (usually the losing party, but not always) from trying to get another bite at the apple. There are four requirements for claim preclusion: (1) the court that issued the first judgment had to have proper jurisdiction: (2) the first judgment had to be decided on the merits (that means an actual decision); (3) the second case involved issues that were or could have been decided in the first case; and (4) the first case involved the same parties as the second case (or their privies). If all four requirements are met, the second claim is barred.

In In the Matter of Eq.W., the trial court had dismissed the first petition alleging the children were CHINS. But the next day, the Department of Child Services (DCS) filed another petition alleging the same children were CHINS. As the Indiana Supreme Court explained, the second petition contained no allegations that occurred after the fact-finding hearing and before DCS filed the second petition. Because of this, the second petition was clearly “a second bite at the apple.”

Res Judicata is a very challenging subject, and you should consult with a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.

Similarly, dealing with DCS or CPS can be very difficult. There are many moving parts, and often people will lie. Randall Parr has nearly forty years of experience, and he has represented clients against DCS allegations in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas.

What is Required for Divorce?

The legal term for divorce is Dissolution of Marriage. This article provides the initial steps and different paths a divorce can take, depending on a client’s situation.

Indiana is a no-fault state. That means either party to the marriage can file for a divorce for virtually any reason–this is typically called an “irretrievable breakdown in the marriage.” Indiana law sets out the requirements for what must be included in a Verified Petition for a Dissolution for Marriage. But before a Petition is filed, one of the parties must have resided in Indiana for at least the six months before the Petition is filed and been a resident of the county where the Petition is filed for at least the three months before the Petition is filed.

The person who files the Petition is also required to serve the other party. Divorce is a civil law suit. That means the party who files the Petition (lawyers call it “initiating the action”) must provide a copy of the Petition, along with a summons, to the other party. A summons often provides the date of the first court hearing.

Indiana law requires at least 60 days go by before the divorce is finalized. Often, especially in contentious divorces that include division of valuable property or custody and child support fights, the divorce process lasts much longer than the 60 days.

Even though one party files a Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the other party can filed what is called a “Cross-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” This might be a good tactic if the party who files first (called the “Petitioner”) does not include all important information.

In particularly difficult situations, either party can ask the court for a protective order.

The court can also make several rulings while the divorce process is in progress. These include temporary spousal maintenance and temporary child custody and child support.

Divorce can be an extremely emotional, complicated, and difficult experience. Having an experienced divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected. With almost 40 years of experience, Indiana divorce lawyer Randall Parr can help you to make sense of your situation to you and represent and protect your interests.

Published Law Review Note Argues for Juvenile Jury Trial Right

Riley Parr, a law student at the IU McKinney School of Law and law clerk for Randall Parr, wrote in a Note published by the Indiana Law Review that juveniles should have the right to jury trials when they face juvenile adjudications–that is, when they face the equivalent of criminal charges in juvenile court.

Juveniles do not currently have the right to a jury trial, though they do have nearly all of the other constitutional rights of adults accused of crimes: Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures; Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; Sixth Amendment rights to counsel, confrontation, and cross-examination. The State must also prove the juvenile committed the act beyond a reasonable doubt.

But, according to the Indiana Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, juveniles do not have the right to a jury trial.

Arguing that the juvenile justice system is now essentially equivalent to the adult criminal justice system, Parr reasons that under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment Due Process Clause and the Sixth Amendment, juveniles should have the right to a jury trial. He also opines that juveniles are entitled to this right under the civil jury trial trial provided by Article 1, Section 20 of the Indiana Constitution .

You can read his entire Note here:

Indiana Supreme Court Concludes Juvenile Should Have Been Mirandized

Rush, Chief Justice.

The vital mission of educating our youth requires schools to daily provide safety, security, and student discipline. In recent decades, schools have turned to resource officers for help. These officers protect students and staff, offer mentorship—and, yes, help with discipline and criminal investigations. As their presence has grown, so too have questions of students’ constitutional rights. Today we address for the first time one of those questions: when are students entitled to Miranda warnings at school?
Here, in response to a bomb threat on a bathroom wall, thirteen-year old B.A. was escorted from his bus and questioned in a vice-principal’s office. Officers hovered over B.A. and encouraged him to confess, but no one gave him Miranda warnings.
We hold that B.A. was in police custody and under police interrogation, so he should have been Mirandized. We therefore reverse his delinquency adjudications.

Facts and Procedural History

Scribbled in pink marker in a Decatur Middle School boys’ bathroom came the threat: “I will Got A bomb in the school Monday 8th 2016 not a Joke.” School Resource Officer Tutsie “immediately went into investigative mode” and soon narrowed the suspects to two students—including thirteen-year-old B.A. The next Monday, February 8, 2016, school resource officers and administrators walked through the school and found it safe. Then, when B.A.’s bus arrived, Vice-Principal Remaly and School Resource Officer
Lyday removed B.A. from his bus and escorted him to Remaly’s office. B.A. sat in front of Remaly’s desk while Officer Lyday stood a few feet away. Early in B.A.’s interview, Officer Tutsie came in and took Officer Lyday’s spot while Officer Lyday moved to sit at a conference table behind B.A. Around that same time, a third school resource officer Officer Wheeler—came in and sat at the conference table. All three officers wore police uniforms.

Read the entire opinion here.

Randall Parr handles juvenile and CHINS cases throughout Indiana.  Contact him here.

Supreme Court Decides Voting Case

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) addresses the removal of
ineligible voters from state voting rolls, 52 U. S. C. §20501(b), including
those who are ineligible “by reason of” a change in residence,

The Act prescribes requirements that a State must
meet in order to remove a name on change-of-residence grounds,
§§20507(b), (c), (d). The most relevant of these are found in subsection
(d), which provides that a State may not remove a name on
change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant either (A) confirms
in writing that he or she has moved or (B) fails to return a preaddressed,
postage prepaid “return card” containing statutorily prescribed
content and then fails to vote in any election during the period
covering the next two general federal elections.

In addition to these specific change-of-residence requirements, the
NVRA also contains a general “Failure-to-Vote Clause,” §20507(b)(2),
consisting of two parts. It first provides that a state removal program
“shall not result in the removal of the name of any person
. . . by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Second, as added by
the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), it specifies that “nothing
in [this prohibition] may be construed to prohibit a State from using
the procedures” described above—sending a return card and removing
registrants who fail to return the card and fail to vote for the requisite
time . . . .

Read the entire opinion here.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis attorney.  He handles a variety of legal matters, including constitutional issues.  Contact him today.

Criminal Contempt Inappropriate for Defendant Who Violated Bail

Case Summary

While criminal charges against Cameron Hunter (“Hunter”) were pending, the
State alleged that Hunter had contemptuously violated a condition of his bail.
Following a hearing, the trial court entered a contempt finding and imposed a
sanction of 180 days in jail. Hunter presents two issues on appeal, which we
consolidate and restate as whether the court abused its discretion by imposing a
criminal contempt sanction upon the violation of a condition of bail.

We reverse.

Facts and Procedural History

Hunter was released on bail during the pendency of criminal charges against
him. Hunter and the State eventually reached a plea agreement, and the trial
court scheduled the matter for hearing. At the hearing, Hunter sought to
postpone consideration of the plea in order to determine whether he was
eligible for community corrections. The State then orally sought a modification
of the conditions of Hunter’s bail, to which Hunter’s counsel agreed. The court
continued the hearing and orally modified the conditions of Hunter’s bail,
specifying that Hunter was not to contact or “be around anyone under the age
of 18.” Tr. Vol. II at 10. Hunter confirmed that he had no questions about the
trial court’s oral pronouncement. Hunter then left the courthouse and entered a
vehicle that contained the three people he rode with to the hearing: his
girlfriend, his fifteen-year-old sister, and a sixteen-year-old female.

Read the entire opinion here.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney.  Contact him here.