INDIANAPOLIS – A Madison County Juvenile Court judge did not abuse his discretion by refusing to waive his jurisdiction over the unsuccessful adoption of two children with special needs by out-of-state parents, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeal.
According to a 14-page opinion from Judge Patricia A. Riley, an aunt and uncle said Madison County Circuit Court Judge Stephen J. Koester’s refusal 2 to reconsider their motion asking him to waive his jurisdiction was an “excusable error, surprise or negligence”. The aunt and uncle said they had not been given an opportunity, as the trial rules require, to respond to a request from the Indiana Department of Children’s Services to move the court case 3 to court 2.
Courts refer to aunt and uncle only by their initials to protect the identity of children.
“However, the paternal aunt and uncle do not state any rules, and neither can we locate one, forcing them to respond to the DCS transfer request. As a result, as no response was required, the granting of DCS’s request was not wrong, ”said the appeal court’s opinion filed on August 13.
The paternal aunt and uncle in June 2020 filed a verified parentage petition in Madison Circuit Court 3 after the father consented to the adoption of his two children. According to the petition, the mother had abandoned her children a year earlier when she moved to Alabama.
According to the aunt and uncle’s petition, the children were then wards of DCS, and a petition for children in need of services (CHINS) had been filed on behalf of each child in Madison County Circuit Court 2 , where questions concerning minors are generally decided.
Two days after the petition was filed, the mother of the children, representing herself, appeared in court 3 and contested the adoption.
“In her petition, she disputed the claims of the paternal aunt and uncle and claimed that DCS had placed the children with the maternal grandparents until the mother could reunite them,” the notice says. call.
The mother further claimed that she had contact with the children and spent time with them.
“Mother informed the lower court that she left the state to sort out her drug addiction issues and get married,” the opinion said.
Two days later, DCS officials filed a motion to intervene, which the court granted. In that petition, DCS officials opposed the aunt and uncle’s adoption and confirmed that they had placed the children with the maternal grandparents.
DCS challenged the adoption on the grounds that it was not in the best interests of the children, who have special needs as they had already lived for two months with the maternal grandparents and had established a bond with them. Additionally, DCS officials said, the aunt and uncle lived in New York City and had only met the children a few times.
“DCS further stated that it believed that” the filing of this adoption procedure [to be] an attempt to circumvent the findings and decision of the CHINS tribunal, ”according to the notice.
About a month later, the maternal grandparents filed a motion to intervene in the adoption case and asked the court to dismiss the aunt and uncle’s adoption petition. The court granted this request.
The aunt and uncle on the same day filed a motion to strike the maternal grandparents’ pleadings and then asked 3 Court Judge Andrew Hopper to reconsider the order on the grounds that the grandparents did not. had no standing.
In November, DCS filed a petition in Court 2 to make it the court of record. This was done in part because of all the family interventions in CHIN’s case. DCS officials said transferring adoption “would promote efficiency, fair distribution and speedy resolution of cases.” The motion was accepted.
On November 16, the aunt and uncle filed a petition for redress, arguing that the court had approved the transfer without giving them a chance to respond. They also argued that adoption cases were best heard by estates courts and that Court 3 was the county’s appointed estates court.
However, according to the opinion, it does not appear that court 3 has ruled on the matter and a case has been opened in court 2.
The aunt and uncle asked what was initially Koester’s successful dismissal on February 26, 2021, by order of the executive director of the Indiana Office of Judicial Administration. But four days later, the Indiana Supreme Court returned jurisdiction to Koester.
He rejected the aunt and uncle’s request to send the case back to court 3 and specifically said his court would retain jurisdiction, which led to this appeal.