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In re J.S.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 18, 2019

In the Matter of J.S. (Child in Need of Services)
v.
The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner . K.S. (Mother), Appellant-Respondent,

          Appeal from the Hamilton Circuit Court The Honorable Paul A. Felix, Judge The Honorable Todd L. Ruetz, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 29C01-1709-JC-1220

          Attorney for Appellant Rebecca M. Eimerman Zionsville, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana, Robert J. Henke Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAILEY, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] K.S. ("Mother") had three children ("Children"), all of whom were adjudicated Children in Need of Services ("CHINS"). Post-adjudication, during permanency proceedings, Mother unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the CHINS case concerning her eldest child, J.S. On January 4, 2019, this Court granted Mother permission to bring an interlocutory appeal to challenge the denial of that motion. She presents the sole issue of whether she is entitled to dismissal pursuant to Indiana Code Section 31-34-11-1(d), which provides for dismissal of a CHINS case if a factfinding hearing is not completed within 60 days (or 120 days with party consent) after the filing of a CHINS petition. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On September 25, 2017, the Hamilton County Department of Child Services ("the DCS") filed a CHINS petition regarding Children. The DCS alleged that J.S.'s sibling had sustained physical injuries consistent with physical abuse or non-accidental trauma, specifically, rib and tibia fractures, subconjunctival hemorrhages, and bruising across the body. Children were removed from Mother's care and she was provided court-appointed counsel.

         [¶3] On November 13, 2017, the DCS and Mother, by counsel, agreed to a setting of the factfinding hearing for January 18, 2018. Mother was appointed new counsel and, on January 17, 2018, she filed a motion to continue the factfinding hearing. Without providing specific terms, Mother informed the court that she and the DCS had reached an agreement. She requested a non-contested factfinding hearing to be conducted thirty to forty-five days in the future. The CHINS court conducted the factfinding hearing on February 26, 2018. On March 1, 2018, the court adjudicated Children as CHINS and entered dispositional orders.

         [¶4] Eight months later, on October 26, 2018, Mother filed a motion to dismiss the CHINS case as to J.S. She argued that dismissal was mandatory because the non-contested CHINS factfinding hearing was conducted outside the 120-day window of Indiana Code Section 31-34-11-1. The DCS filed an objection to the motion to dismiss. On October 29, 2018, the juvenile court conducted a permanency hearing, preceded by argument regarding the motion to dismiss. Considering Mother's motion to have been made "after the fact," Tr. at 8, the juvenile court denied the motion to dismiss. Mother now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶5] Indiana Code Section 31-34-11-1 provides in relevant part:

(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 need of services is filed in accordance with IC 31-34-9.
(b) The juvenile court may extend the time to complete a factfinding hearing, as described in subsection (a), for an additional sixty (60) days if all parties in the ...

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