In the Matter of: L.S., C.S., and W.S. (Minor Children in Need of Services);
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner. J.S. (Father), Appellant-Respondent,
from the Tippecanoe Superior Court The Honorable Faith A.
Graham, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 79D03-1611-JC-322
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Carlos I. Carrillo Greenwood, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Robert J. Henke Deputy Attorney General
of the Case
J.S. ("Father") appeals the trial court's
denial of the Department of Child Services'
("DCS") petition in which DCS alleged that
Father's children, L.S., C.S., and W.S. (collectively
"the Children"), are children in need of services
("CHINS"). Father presents five issues for our
review, which we consolidate and restate as the following
1. Whether the trial court erred when it denied Father's
requests for supervised visits with the Children.
2. Whether the trial court violated Father's right to due
process when it conducted the CHINS fact-finding hearing.
3. Whether the trial court clearly erred when it denied the
and Procedural History
Father and S.S. ("Mother") married and had three
children together: L.S., born October 14, 2005; C.S., born
January 27, 2008; and W.S., born November 5, 2009. In 2014,
after DCS received a report of Father's "violence
against Mother, " the trial court adjudicated the
Children to be CHINS. Appellant's App. Vol. 2 at 46.
After that CHINS case was closed, the parents continued
marital counseling, and they continued counseling and
medication for L.S., who had been diagnosed with Disruptive
Mood Disregulation Disorder ("DMDD") and Attention
Deficit Disorder ("ADD"). At some point, Mother
filed a petition for dissolution of the marriage, but she
later dismissed her petition.
Then, on October 28, 2016,
law enforcement responded to the family home after a 911 call
regarding a domestic violence incident in the presence of the
children. After initial hesitation, Mother cooperated with
law enforcement by answering questions and providing
information. DCS also conducted an investigation into the
circumstances. Mother report[ed] Father had
"belted" Mother back before grabbing and wrestling
[L.S.] to the ground where Father held her down. Mother also
reported Father held her by the neck against the wall
screaming very loudly in her ear. Mother disclosed a history
of Father exhibiting controlling and manipulative behavior
but assert[ed] past incidents ha[d] not included physical
aggression to th[at] extent. Father report[ed] [L.S.]
attempted to unilaterally "hijack" a planned family
trip to Chicago. Father spank[ed] [L.S.] with a belt after
[L.S.] struck Father in the head with a suitcase.
Appellant's App. at 77. After investigating the incident
on October 28, DCS filed a petition alleging that the
Children were CHINS. And on November 15, 2016, a trial court
issued a protection order that restrained Father "from
any contact" with Mother or the Children. Protection
Order at 1.
The trial court held a fact-finding hearing on the CHINS
petition over the course of four days from January 12 to
April 21, 2017. On April 24, the court issued its order
denying the petition, and it found and concluded in relevant
part as follows:
10. Mother filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage . . .
on November 15, 2016. A Provisional Order issued January 3,
2017, and modified March 29, 2017, awards Mother possession
and use of the marital residence. Matters of custody,
parenting time and support were referred to Tippecanoe
Superior Court II pending the conclusion of the CHINS
* * *
12. The State of Indiana filed charges against Father for
Invasion of Privacy and a criminal case is pending . . . .
13. Mother admits she has not continued her own individual
counseling since the prior CHINS case closed. Mother has a
plan for appropriate alternative housing in the event Mother
and the [C]hildren are unable to continue residing in the
marital residence. Mother gained employment as a substitute
teacher and is renewing her teaching license for future
14. Father reports residing in his van or at a homeless
shelter. Father is seeking housing assistance through
Lafayette Transitional Housing. Father's employment was
15. Father initially admitted that [L.S.] is a Child in Need
of Services. At the conclusion of the Fact Finding hearings,
Father testified that[, ] without an adjudication, Father
would be unable to gain access to the [C]hildren and Mother
would be able to succeed with a strategy for adoption.
16. Both parents indicate [L.S.] was previously diagnosed
with [DMDD and ADD] by Laura Hawkins around the Summer of
2015. Both parents indicate [L.S.] was prescribed medication
which improved [L.S.'s] behavior.
17. Father asserts Mother unilaterally ceased [L.S.'s]
medication in around February 2016 resulting in a "new
peak of violence" from [L.S.] including attacks on
siblings and parents. Father asserts Mother downplays the
extent of [L.S.'s] behavior and is incapable of
disciplining [L.S.] and the other children. Mother agrees
medication did calm [L.S.], but worries that the medication
is for the benefit of the parents and not the benefit of