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COA: inequity in grandparent visitation act

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The Indiana Court of Appeals discovered an inequity in the Grandparent Visitation Act due to the lack of biological relationships between the parties in an adoption petition.

In the case, In Re: Adoption of L.D.; A.B. and N.E. v. Jo.D and Ja.D., No. 49A02-0907-CV-671, the appellate judges noted a potential and presumably unintended bias in Indiana Code Section 31-17-5-9, the Grandparent Visitation Act. Paternal grandparents Jo.D. and Ja.D. filed for adoption of their adopted son's child, L.D. Mother A.B.'s co-worker, N.E., cared for the boy while she was incarcerated; N.E. later adopted A.B.

A.B. and N.E. opposed L.D's adoption; the trial court granted some visitation to N.E. before the adoption was finalized. Once the adoption petition was granted, the paternal grandparents told N.E. they planned to phase out visitation with her.

The mother and N.E. appealed several issues, including N.E.'s rights to visitation as a grandparent. But based on the language of the act, her visitation can't continue now that the child has been adopted, the Court of Appeals concluded. The act provides that visitation rights survive adoption by a stepparent or person who is biologically related to the child. Since the paternal grandparents aren't biologically related to L.D., N.E. isn't entitled to visitations as a matter of law under the act, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

In addition, if N.E. had been the one to adopt the boy, then the paternal grandparents wouldn't have had any rights under the act because N.E. isn't biologically related to the boy.

"Whether this consequence was intended or should be rectified we leave for the Legislature to decide," wrote the judge.

The judges affirmed the trial court's order denying the motion to set aside the petition decree. The mother failed to show that the service of process by publication in a newspaper she was unlikely to read was inadequate. N.E. didn't show that the adoption statute's failure to require that she, as a grandparent, receive notice of the adoption proceeding violates her due process rights in that a grandparent does not have a liberty interest in visitation with grandchildren.

The appellate court also dismissed mother's argument that the paternal grandparents should have gotten her consent for the adoption because it wasn't properly before the court.

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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