Delaware

CUSTODY

SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION

Div. of Fam. Servs. v. O’Bryan, 2017 WL 2376401 (Del.). State supreme court held child welfare agency lacked authority to require father, who was a registered sex offender, to leave family home under Child Protection from Sex Offenders Act. Act’s presumption against custody, residency, and unsupervised visitation only applies in custody proceedings. Agency admitted children experienced no alleged abuse or neglect other than witnessing domestic violence between parents, for which wife was arrested.

DELINQUENCY

EXPUNGEMENT

Arnold v. State, 49 A.3d 1180 (Del. 2012). Young man who, as a youth, incurred a number of delinquency offenses, was correct that gubernatorial pardon mandated family court to expunge his juvenile record. Board of Pardons considered entire juvenile and adult record, and upon pardon being granted, court did not have discretion to expunge records.

SEIZURE

N.S. v. State, 2015 WL 384161 (Ind. Ct. App.). Physical evidence, including firearm and marijuana, discovered as direct result of illegal search of juvenile’s backpack, was inadmissible as fruit of poisonous tree. Juvenile’s companion was not “independent source” of knowledge that juvenile had contraband, separate from officer’s illegal backpack search. Companion’s testimony regarding possession was therefore also inadmissible as product of illegal search.

DEPENDENCY

EVIDENCE

Dep’t of Servs. for Children, Youth & Fam. v. Fowler, 2015 WL 5048164 (Del.). Trial court is not required to accept child welfare agency’s evidence as conclusive in case of infant born at home to mother on methadone. Court could credit mother’s explanations for her behavior and weigh father’s account of birth in its analysis. Judge at permanency planning hearing was not “rubber stamp” for agency. Court was required to weigh all evidence presented at hearing, consider totality of circumstances, and determine whether agency had met its burden. 

GUARDIANSHIP

Tourison v. Pepper, 51 A.3d 470 (Del. 2012). Trial court improperly based decision to deny mother’s petition to rescind relative guardianship on child’s best interests. Constitutional presumption that a parent is fit must be overcome by a third party showing of physical or long-term emotional harm.

LIABILITY

SCHOOLS

Hecksher v. Fairwinds Baptist Church, 2015 WL 2415121 (Del.). Trial court improperly awarded summary judgment where private school lacked sex abuse prevention policy and failed to report alleged abuse. Knowledge of abuse by wife of alleged perpetrator, also a school employee, could not be blocked from being imputed to school because there was no evidence she was acting solely in her role as a spouse in failing to report. 

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

BEST INTERESTS

Morris v. Div. of Family Servs., 45 A.3d 149 (Del. 2012). Trial court did not err in finding termination was in child’s best interests despite claim that the court should have put more weight on the child’s relationships with parents and their relatives. Fact that father stated he was no longer interested in pursuing reunification and that mother did not return to court for a second day of hearing supported finding that parents had a greatly diminished relationship with child and there was no abuse in discretion in failing to put weight on extended family relationships when child was merely two years old.

BURDEN OF PROOF

Long v. Div. of Family Servs., 41 A.3d 367 (Del. 2012). Family court did not impermissibly shift burden of proof to mother during termination hearing when it held that the agency no longer had an obligation to show that she was working on the case plan. In context, the transcript revealed the court was merely holding that the agency had fulfilled its duty to provide reasonable efforts, but placed the burden of proof on the agency throughout the trial.

INCARCERATION

Brown v. Div. of Family Servs., 14 A.3d 507 (Del. 2011). Family court did not improperly terminate mother’s parental rights solely due to incarceration; court considered a number of factors in failure to plan analysis including that mother failed to visit consistently even when not incarcerated and failed to take advantage of services offered in prison that were required on case plan.

LEGAL REPRESENTATION

Moore v. Hall, 62 A.3d 1203 (Del. 2013). In termination case sought by mother against the father, where father’s attorney moved to withdraw due to a reported breakdown in communication, trial court erred in instructing father to proceed pro se without engaging in a discussion to ensure he was knowingly and intelligently waiving his right to counsel based on an understanding of the dangers of self-representation.

REASONABLE EFFORTS

Brown v. Div. of Fam. Servs., 14 A.3d 524 (Del. 2011). Agency made reasonable efforts to reunify mother with child after she moved to neighboring state, despite fact that it did not pay for train tickets for mother to travel to see child in neighboring state; agency provided mother support services that built upon those provided by the neighboring state, monitored her progress and compliance with other state’s case plan, and gave her information on enrolling in substance abuse treatment programs in the neighboring state.