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Supreme Court Affirms CHINS Adjudication

In In re J.W., Juvenile, 2016 VT 78 (July 8, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the family court’s order adjudicating J.W. a Child in Need of Supervisions (CHINS).

Issue: Shortly before J.W.’s third birthday, DCF filed a CHINS petition and J.W. was taken into temporary custody. The court found that the state proved by a preponderance of the evidence that J.W. was CHINS because the mother was not willing to protect J.W. from the father. The court reached this conclusion based on circumstances detailed in the mother’s RFA petition against the father. The father appealed the adjudication, arguing that the court erred in taking judicial notice of his criminal record and the RFA order.

Holding: The Court affirmed the CHINS adjudication, finding that the family court did not rely on the father’s criminal record beyond using it to corroborate the mother’s allegations about the father’s behavior and actions. While the mother reneged on the allegations in the RFA, both the family court and the Supreme Court found her disavowal not credible, especially in the sense that it showed her inability to understand the safety issues presented by the father. The Court ultimately held that the family court’s findings were supported by evidence and that both the findings and the evidence support the CHINS adjudication.

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