In re J.C., No. 19A-JT-350, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Ct. App., Sept. 24, 2019).

Mathias, J.

B.C. (“Mother”) appeals the order of the Marion Circuit Court terminating her parental rights to her children J.C. and R.C. (collectively “the Children”). On appeal, Mother presents three issues, which we reorder and restate as:

I. Whether the trial court erred by denying Mother’s motion to dismiss the petition to terminate her parental rights because the evidentiary hearings were not completed within the statutory 180-day time frame;

II. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence the results of Mother’s drug screens; and

III. Whether the trial court’s termination orders are supported by sufficient evidence.

Concluding that Mother waived the statutory time limit, that the admission of the drug screen results was harmless, and that there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s termination orders, we affirm.

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Mother argues that the trial court erred by denying her motion to dismiss the State’s petition to terminate her parental rights because the termination hearing was not completed within 180 days of the filing of the petition…

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At first blush, Mother’s argument appears to have merit. But Mother’s argument overlooks the fact that she failed to object to any delay in the hearings. Specifically, the trial court held a pre-trial hearing on June 25, 2018, which was already past the ninety-day deadline in R.C.’s case and was the last day of the ninety-day deadline in J.C.’s case. Mother appeared by counsel, and the trial court set the termination petition for evidentiary hearings to be held on September 26 and October 10, 2018. Mother did not object to the setting of these dates, which were outside both the ninety and 180-day time limits set forth in Indiana Code section 31-35-2-6. Not only did Mother fail to object, the trial court specifically noted that Mother affirmatively waived the “180 day requirement.” Appellant’s App. p. 75. Additionally, when the trial court began the hearing on September 26, Mother’s counsel did not object to the lateness of the hearings but instead moved for a continuance. Mother did not indicate any issue with the delay in the hearings until the third day of the evidentiary hearing, when she orally moved to dismiss. When the trial court denied her oral motion, Mother filed a written motion to reconsider, which the trial court also denied.

The State contends that these facts demonstrate that Mother waived any objection to the delay in the hearings. We agree…

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Mother argues that we should apply the reasoning of T.T. and M.S. to the facts of the present case and hold that the statutory time limits for termination hearings are absolute and cannot be waived by the parties. We decline to do so. The aforementioned cases dealt with the time limits set forth in Indiana Code section 31-34-11-1 for CHINS fact-finding hearings. In contrast, here, we are concerned with the time limits for termination hearings set forth in Indiana Code section 31-35-2-6. Cases interpreting the former statute do not control in cases, such as the present one, involving the latter statute.

More importantly, Mother not only failed to object to the setting of the hearing outside the statutory timeframe, she affirmatively waived the deadline on the record. Accordingly, she failed to preserve any claim of error…

Although we do not suggest that Mother engaged in such “sandbagging” here, the result is the same: she waived the statutory deadline, then sought dismissal after the court acted on her waiver. Under such circumstances, Mother cannot complain that the hearing was held outside the statutory timeframe. Nor has Mother identified any actual prejudice to her ability to present her case as a result of the delay. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court’s failure to hold and complete the evidentiary hearings on the termination petitions within the statutory timeframe did not constitute reversible error.

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Mother claims that the laboratory results of her drug screens constituted inadmissible hearsay….

In In re L.S., 125 N.E.3d 628, 634 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), this court held that the drug test reports were not admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule because, even though an affidavit of the laboratory director stated that the reports were maintained in the normal course of business activity, the laboratory did not depend on the reports to operate or conduct its business. Rather, the drug test reports were documented for the benefit of DCS…

Mother argues that the same holds true here, i.e., the results of her drug tests were inadmissible hearsay. Even if we agreed with her, she would not prevail. Not all evidentiary error is reversible error, as the improper admission of evidence will be considered harmless when the trial court’s judgment is supported by substantial independent evidence such that there is no substantial likelihood that the questioned evidence contributed to the judgment. B.H., 989 N.E.2d at 360.

The drug test results at issue here show that Mother tested positive for cocaine and marijuana four times. But, at the termination hearing, Mother admitted that she had a substance abuse problem and had abused drugs since she was a teenager. Moreover, Mother should have submitted over 200 drug screens but submitted less than half this amount. From this, the trial court could reasonably infer that Mother would have tested positive for these missed screens. See In re A.B., 924 N.E.2d 666, 671 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010). Mother was also convicted for possession of cocaine. In other words, the evidence establishing Mother’s repeated substance abuse was overwhelming, and the admission of the four positive drug screens did not impair Mother’s substantial rights. See D.B.M. v. Ind. Dep’t of Child Servs., 20 N.E.3d 174, 179 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014) (noting that admission of improper evidence is harmless if such does not affect a party’s substantial rights), trans. denied.

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Conclusion

Mother waived the statutory time limits within which the trial court was required to commence and complete the hearings on DCS’s petitions to terminate her parental rights. Thus, the trial court properly denied Mother’s subsequent motion to dismiss based on the failure to complete the hearings within the statutory time limits. Any error in the admission of the results of Mother’s drug screens was harmless given the other substantial evidence of Mother’s substance abuse. And there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s termination order. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Affirmed.

Robb, J., concurs. Pyle, J., concurs in result with opinion.

Pyle, Judge concurring in result with opinion.

I concur in the result reached by my colleagues, but I write separately to state that I believe that the admission of Mother’s drug test results (Exhibits 17-20) was not erroneous; they were properly admitted under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. Evid. R. 803(6).

I respectfully disagree with the holding reached in In re L.S., 125 N.E.3d 628 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019)….

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