The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals has ruled parents have a constitutional right to an adjudication hearing. In the Matter of J.C. 2018 OK CIV APP 32, the father of J.C. was denied an adjudication hearing by the trial court. The case concerned three children, two children had another father (JD) and one child had the appealing father (TC).
All three children were taken from mother and father JD for allegations of drug abuse. The allegations against father TC was his failure to protect his child. Mother stipulated to the deprived petition for all three children. Father TC requested a hearing and objected to mother's stipulation. The Trial court denied his request for hearing stating the status of deprived was to the child not the parent and found father TC was bound by mother's stipulation.
The Appellate court found that an adjudication of a child being deprived threatens each parents constitutional rights to their child. As such each parent has a due process right to be heard before their right is taken away.
"A proceeding to adjudicate a child as deprived clearly threatens each parent's interest by threatening to disrupt each parent's relationship with her or his child. Depending on the reasons leading to the adjudication hearing and its outcome, the proceeding may result not only in making a child a ward of the court but also in removing a child from its parent's custody and allowing State to impose a variety of standards of conduct, sanctions, and requirements on each parent before one or both parents may regain custody. The specific conditions that State may impose on a specific parent will depend on the conditions leading to the child being taken into custody and, if warranted, adjudication as deprived. While in some cases those conditions will be the same for each parent, in other cases they will be different. Whether different conditions exist for each parent cannot fairly be determined if one parent is permitted to bind the other parent without the explicit or implicit agreement of the parent so bound. Moreover, allowing the result urged by State here deprives the parent requesting a non-jury trial of the only option afforded under 10A O.S.2011 § 1-4-601(D) to challenge State's allegations. Father both exercised that option here and made clear his objection to Mother's stipulation." In Re J.C. 2018 OK CIV APP 32, at 15.