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Court must make findings in denying visitation for imprisoned dad

August 26, 2014

A man released to probation on a murder conviction but subsequently ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence following probation violations failed to persuade the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse denial of his request for parenting time.

Wade R. Meisberger was sentenced to 48 years in prison in the early 1990s for murder and theft in Monroe County for the killing of Michael Sawyer. He was released to probation in 2007 and fathered a child, E.M., in 2008 with Margaret Bishop, to whom he was married briefly.

The couple divorced and, in 2012, Meisberger’s probation was revoked. But he continued to push for parenting time in pro se filings, and in December 2013 the couple appeared for a hearing after which a judge found “[Mother] is opposed to parenting time at [the DOC], is opposed to transporting [E.M.] there, and indicates [Father’s] parents do not want to transport the child either.”

The judge also found that Meisberger had been a consistent part of the child’s life for only one of his five years, " and, thus, it is not in his best interest to have in person parenting time within the confines of a prison facility."

The Court of Appeals remanded the matter, finding the Jefferson Circuit Court did not make a finding regarding the endangerment of the child’s physical health or significant impairment of the child’s health, safety or emotional development as required under I.C. 31-17-4-2.

“Under these circumstances and recognizing that Mother did not file an appellee’s brief, we remand for the trial court to determine and make one or more findings as to whether the child’s physical health or safety would be endangered or whether there would be significant impairment of the child’s emotional development by allowing Father parenting time, or, in its discretion, to conduct other proceedings consistent with this opinion,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel.     

The case is In re the Marriage of: Wade R. Meisberger v. Margaret Bishop f/k/a Margaret Meisberger, 39A01-1402-DR-76.

 

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