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In re J.R.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 17, 2018

In the Matter of: J.R. and M.R., Children in Need of Services,
v.
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner . D.R. (Mother) and M.R. (Father), Appellants-Respondents,

          Appeal from the Tipton Circuit Court The Hon. Thomas R. Lett, Judge Trial Court Cause Nos. 80C01-1609-JC-144, 80C01-1609-JC-145

          Attorney for Appellants Scott A. Norrick Anderson, Indiana.

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana, David E. Corey Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          BRADFORD, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Appellants-Respondents D.R. ("Mother") and M.R. ("Father") (collectively, "Parents") appeal from the juvenile court's determination that J.R. and M.R. ("the Children") are children in need of services ("CHINS"). Parents contend that the juvenile court erred in denying their motion to dismiss the CHINS petitions filed by the Appellee-Petitioner the Indiana Department of Child Services ("DCS"), which motion was made on the ground that the fact-finding hearing was not completed within the statutorily-required sixty-day period after the filing of the CHINS petitions. Because we agree with Parents, we reverse the judgment of the juvenile court and remand with instructions to dismiss DCS's CHINS petitions without prejudice.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On or about September 23, 2016, Tipton County DCS received a report that Father was abusing Children, their older sibling, and Mother. On September 29, 2016, DCS filed its petitions to have M.R. and J.R. declared to be CHINS. On November 22, 2016, the juvenile court began a factfinding hearing. On November 29, 2016, the juvenile court ordered that the continued factfinding hearing be completed on February 6, 2017. On December 27, 2016, Parents objected to the continuance of the factfinding hearing outside the sixty-day limit imposed by Indiana Code section 31-34-11-1. The juvenile court overruled the objection. On January 11, 2017, Parents moved to dismiss, arguing that the factfinding hearing had not been completed within the required sixty days following the filing of the CHINS petitions. On February 6, 2017, the juvenile court denied Parents' motion to dismiss and completed the continued factfinding hearing.

         [¶3] On February 23, 2017, the juvenile court issued orders in which it found the Children to be CHINS. On March 14, 2017, the juvenile court entered a dispositional order. On April 10, 2017, Parents filed their notice of appeal from the CHINS determinations. On July 10, 2017, Parents filed a Trial Rule 60(B) motion to set aside the juvenile court's judgment, which motion the juvenile court denied on July 20, 2017. On August 10, 2017, Parents filed their notice of appeal from the juvenile court's denial of their motion for relief from judgment. Parents' two appeals were consolidated by order of this court.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶4] Parents contend that the juvenile court erred in denying their motion to dismiss the CHINS petitions on the basis that the factfinding hearing was not completed within the required sixty days, the juvenile court lacked authority to enter a CHINS finding due to the failure to complete factfinding within sixty days, and the evidence is insufficient to support the juvenile court's CHINS determination. Because we conclude that Parents' first claim is dispositive, we need not address their others.

          Motion to Dismiss

         [¶5] Parents argue that the juvenile court erred in denying their motion to dismiss pursuant to Indiana Code section 31-34-11-1, which provides, in relevant part, as follows:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), unless the allegations of a petition have been admitted, the juvenile court shall complete a factfinding hearing not more than sixty (60) days after a petition alleging that a child is a child in ...

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