Court reverses suspension of mother's parenting time

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the modification of a mother’s parenting time to end any visitation with her autistic son because the father didn’t present evidence justifying terminating the parenting time. The judges also encouraged the mother to attend parenting classes or therapy to learn how to better deal with her son’s special needs.

Mother P.S. and father W.C. had one son together, W.C., who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. In May 2010, the mother’s parenting time was modified to Sundays from noon to 1 p.m. at a local McDonald’s, with the father supervising, and telephone calls on Wednesdays between 3 and 5 p.m. Mother was also ordered to treat their son appropriately for his age as a 10-year-old and refrain from talking about adult topics with him.

The father documented the visits and phone calls in a three-page journal, noting P.S. brought calendars with court dates on them, asked her son to tell her “I love you” so she could record it, and brought up his old school and behavior. She also fed him, brought him toys and books appropriate for preschoolers, and spoke baby talk to him on the phone.

After one of the visits, the son became upset and soiled himself that day. The son also reverted back to baby talk and became obsessed with baby things instead of items appropriate for a 10-year-old.

At a hearing, the mother explained that she brought the calendars because she knew her son liked them and didn’t think he’d know what the court dates meant; that she was just reminiscing when she brought up his old school and behavior to show how much he has grown; and that she had possibly referred to him as “baby,” but is trying to treat him like a pre-teen.

The trial court suspended her parenting rights and any other contact with her son and granted a protective order against her until July 2020, when W.C. would be 20.

In Paternity of W.C.; P.S. v. W.C., No. 82A04-1008-JP-496, the judges found father W.C. did not prove the need for such a restriction on P.S.’s parenting time. The evidence he presented was his journal; no guardian ad litem, therapist, or any other professional or objective witness testified. Based on the journal, the court found the mother’s actions endangered her son’s physical health and mental well-being by causing W.C. to be upset and anxious and impaired his emotional development.

While mother needs to improve her parenting skills, the evidence shows she loves her son and wants to be a part of his life and even brings him gifts, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

“This case throws into sharp relief the challenge of protecting a child’s emotional development and physical health and well-being while also recognizing a parent’s ‘precious privilege’ of exercising parenting time with that child. We do not minimize the behavioral issues W.C. has exhibited following Mother’s parenting time. However, Father simply did not present evidence justifying termination of what little parenting time Mother had left,” she wrote.

The appellate court reinstated the previous parenting time and asked the trial court to vacate the 10-year protective order. On remand, the judges encouraged the trial court to consider ordering the mother to attend parenting classes so she can learn how to appropriately deal with W.C.’s special needs. They also suggested the parenting time be supervised by a third party.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  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