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Supreme Court Affirms Post-Disposition Order Transferring Custody of Minor to DCF

In In re I.B., Juvenile, 2016 VT 70 (June 17, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the family court’s post-disposition order transferring custody of I.B. to DCF.

Issue: In July 2012, the State filed a CHINS petition and request for emergency care order based on questions of the mother’s ability to care for I.B., who was born that month. Both parents had a long history with DCF, and the court granted the emergency care order, transferring custody to DCF. After three years of attempting to reunify the family, the State moved to transfer custody to DCF and the court issued a written order to that effect in December 2015. The father appealed. On appeal, the father argued that the family court violated his due process rights by transferring custody without an express finding of changed circumstances and by applying a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard.

Holding: The Court considered both of the father’s arguments and also considered whether the order at issue was final and appealable. With regard to the latter, the Court found that it was. With regard to the father’s two due process arguments, the Court found that the trial court’s findings on the circumstances were enough to show a material change, and that the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard applies to amend a previously written disposition plan.

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