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In re M.S.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 13, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF M.S.; C.L.S., Appellant/Respondent,
v.
A.L.S., Appellee/Petitioner

Page 1273

APPEAL FROM THE ELKHART SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable David C. Bonfiglio, Judge. The Honorable Dean O. Burton, Magistrate. Cause No. 20D06-1112-AD-12.

FOR APPELLANT: DAVID W. STONE IV, Stone Law Office & Legal Research, Anderson, Indiana.

FOR APPELLEE: BRIDGETTE F. GREENE, Elkhart, Indiana.

PYLE, Judge. MATHIAS, J., and BRADFORD, J., concur.

Page 1274

OPINION

PYLE, Judge

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

C.S. (" Mother" ) appeals the trial court's order granting A.S.'s (" Stepmother" ) petition to adopt Mother's minor daughter, M.S.

We affirm.

ISSUE

Whether the trial court erred in granting Stepmother's petition to adopt M.S.

Page 1275

FACTS

Mother married Mi.S. (" Father" ) and had two children with him--M.S. and J.S. M.S. was born in July of 2003 and was nine years old at the time of the adoption hearing.[1] Shortly after M.S.'s birth, on August 14, 2003, Mother filed for dissolution of her marriage to Father. The Elkhart Superior Court 1 (" divorce court" ) approved a decree of dissolution on January 29, 2007, and granted Mother custody of the children.

After a visitation hearing on April 9, 2009, Mother and Father both submitted to drug screens. Father's results were negative, but Mother tested positive for marijuana, methamphetamines, and amphetamines. As a result, on April 13, 2009, the divorce court entered a finding of direct contempt of court against Mother and granted Father custody of both children, although it granted Mother supervised visitation with the children at Child and Parenting Services (" CAPS" ) three times per month. The divorce court also ordered Mother to pay child support in the amount of $50.00 per week, effective April 17, 2009, and directed her to schedule an addictions assessment and to complete any recommended treatments for her addictions.

Following the divorce court's April 13, 2009 order, Mother participated in a few supervised visits with the children at CAPS. However, at an October 30, 2009 hearing, Mother again tested positive for marijuana, and the divorce court terminated her visitation rights. Mother has not had personal contact with M.S. since that time, although she left messages on the voicemail of M.S.'s guardian ad litem at CAPS, Mary Raatz (" Raatz" ), telling Raatz that she wanted to see M.S. However, Raatz felt that Mother had not demonstrated that she had completed the addictions assessment or treatment the divorce court had ordered her to complete before she could resume visitation. At a review hearing on February 12, 2010, Mother requested the divorce court to reinstate parenting time, but the court denied the request. Otherwise, Mother has not made any attempts to reinstate parenting time or contact with M.S.

With respect to her court-ordered services, Mother completed an addictions assessment at the Center for Problem Resolution (" CPR" ) on November 17, 2009. CPR recommended inpatient treatment with a program called Women's Journey and agreed to provide Mother with outpatient treatment until she could be admitted to the program. Mother completed a phone assessment for Women's Journey but did not meet the program's criteria for admittance because she denied having an addiction problem. Thereafter, Mother attended two treatment sessions at CPR. After her second session, she claimed to be ill for multiple sessions but was unable to provide a doctor's note verifying her illness, even though CPR had referred her to a free medical clinic. Mother never attended another session or contacted the program again, and on December 21, 2009, CPR discontinued her treatment with an " unsatisfactory discharge." (Ex. 6).

During this time, Mother was self-employed and lived in a seven bedroom home with a $1600 per month mortgage payment. To help pay for the mortgage, Mother rented out rooms and ran a dog boarding and grooming business at the residence. However, the residence was ultimately foreclosed, and Mother was

Page 1276

forced to close her dog boarding and grooming business.

Beginning in October of 2010, before the property was foreclosed, Mother's mother (" Grandmother" ) began making payments to cover the residence's mortgage. She also helped Mother consolidate her bills and pay back her debts by opening an account with a credit consolidation company, Elite Financial. Every month Grandmother paid Elite Financial, and in turn Elite Financial allocated money to Mother's various debts and bills. In ...


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