Court grants visitation for partner in guardianship case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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When Patrick Atkins suffered a brain hemorrhage and subsequent stroke on a business trip in 2005, his partner of almost 30 years wanted to be there and visit.

While Atkins' family didn't approve of the relationship, Brett Conrad was allowed to visit and have contact with his partner at first. But the family began cutting off that contact and eventually the two sides went to court over visitation rights and guardianship. Conrad lost in Hamilton Superior Court before Judge Steven Nation, who granted guardianship to Atkins' family and allowed them control of visitation - which they'd said in trial would not be allowed for Conrad.

Today, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed that lower court's decision and gave the Fishers man visitation rights and contact with Atkins. The 2-1 ruling came in Guardianship of Patrick Atkins; Brett Conrad v. Thomas Atkins and Jeanne Atkins, No. 29A02-0606-CV-471.

"We are confronted here with the heartbreaking fracture of a family," Chief Judge John Baker wrote. "Brett and Patrick have spent twenty-five years together as life partners - longer than Patrick lived at home with his parents - and their future life together has been destroyed by Patrick's tragic medical condition and by the Atkinses' unwillingness to accept their son's future.

"Although we are compelled to affirm the trial court's order that the Atkinses be appointed Patrick's co-guardians under our standard of review, we reverse the trial court with respect to Brett's request for visitation inasmuch as all credible evidence in the record establishes that it is in Patrick's best interest to continue to have contact with his life partner."

The appellate court also found that the trial court should have required Patrick's presence at the hearing, but that his court-appointed guardian ad litem waived that right by failing to enforce it. Additionally, the court concluded the lower court properly set off the couple's Charles Schwab account to the guardianship estate, but that it erroneously refused Conrad's request for the estate to pay some of his attorney fees and costs.

Judge Carr Darden was the lone dissenter on this case, writing a nearly four-page separate opinion.

Noting that the majority relied on Indiana Code section 29-3-5-3(b) to declare the trial court was required to enter orders encouraging development of Patrick's self-improvement and well-being, Judge Darden wrote, "I can agree that such would indeed be a laudable goal of a guardianship order, but I cannot agree this is what the statute requires."

He also notes that the majority has "impermissibly reweighed evidence and assessed witness credibility in violation of our long accepted standard of review."

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues