Termination of parental rights disputed

A mother who gave up her parental rights could not obtain guaranteed visiting privileges as part of the arrangement, the Indiana Supreme Court held. But it found that the parent who made such an arrangement had the right to a hearing before  visitation was then cut off. Visitation would be determined based on the best interests of the child.  In re M.B. & S. v. Ind. Dep’t of Child Servs., 921 N.E.2d 494 (Ind. 2009)

During an involuntary termination of parental rights proceeding filed by the Howard County Department of Child Services, the mother agreed to voluntarily give up her  parental rights, with a written addendum providing for visitation after adoption of the child. The circuit court informed the mother she was giving up all her rights to the child, though the adoptive parents were not informed of that. The visitations began, but were later cut off after social worker reports the children were experience emotional problems following the visits. The court  subsequently denied the mother’s Trial Rule 60(B) motion to set aside the order for the voluntary termination of  parental rights.  The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding:

A partial termination of parental rights does not exist under Indiana law. See Ind. Code § 31-35-6-4. Either the parent-child relationship survives, or it does not. Given the plain and unambiguous language of Indiana Code Section 31-35-6-4(a)(1), coupled with Indiana’s strong public policy to protect the emotional well-being of children whose parents have been either unable or unwilling to provide for their basic needs over a prolonged period of time, we conclude that Mother’s addendums to the voluntary consent forms are void ab initio and thus unenforceable as a matter of law. Black v. Howard County Dep’t of Child Servs. (In re M.B.), 896 N.E.2d 1, 15 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008).

While the Indiana Supreme Court vacated that ruling upon granting transfer, in its opinion, it affirmed the substance of the decision, while providing for a hearing for the mother on the visitation issue.