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COA: Grandma didn't have standing to petition for visitation

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the denial of a mother’s request to set aside grandparent visitation, finding the grandmother filed her petition in the incorrect court.

In Visitation of P.V.D. and P.I.D.; P.M. v. K.B., No. 45A03-1102-JM-79, mother P.M. challenged the grant of grandparent visitation rights to her mother K.B. P.M.’s two children were born out of wedlock, but P.M. moved to Illinois to be with their father and the two later married.

Before P.M. married, K.B. filed a petition for visitation in Lake County under the Grandparent Visitation Act. P.M. asked for a hearing to be continued because she was injured in a car accident and unable to travel, but the trial court denied her request and conducted a hearing on the grandmother’s petition. Neither parent of the minor children was present for the hearing.

The trial court concluded that the grandmother had overcome the presumption that the parents’ wishes to limit her visitation were in the children’s best interests, and that both parents should be defaulted for not appearing. The judge ordered K.B. the “maximum grandparent visitation rights allowed under Indiana law,” which included one weekend a month, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day.

K.B. later filed a motion to find the parents in contempt of the visitation order. The trial court found the parents in contempt and ordered father to 30 days in jail, which was withheld if he complied with the order. The parents were also ordered to pay K.B.’s attorney fees and allow for double visitation for the next three months to make up for the time that K.B. lost.

P.M. filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that K.B. didn’t have standing to seek visitation under the GVA, which the trial court denied. The trial court found it had jurisdiction by virtue of the children’s relocation to another state less than six months before K.B. filed her petition and the fact that no action for visitation had been filed in Illinois.

But the action should have been filed in Illinois instead of Lake County, the appellate court concluded. Indiana Code 31-17-5-4 requires the grandparent seeking visitation rights to file the petition in a court in the county in which the children reside. In addition, P.M. and her husband haven’t dissolved their marriage in any Indiana court, so under the plain language of the statute, Lake County is not the proper venue for the petition, wrote Judge Cale Bradford.

The judges reversed the denial of P.M.’s motion to set aside the visitation order, and remanded with instructions to rescind the previous order granting K.B. visitation with the children under the GVA. Any future requests for visitation should be filed in the county in which the children live in Illinois.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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