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COA: Only deceased's parent can have visitation

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A paternal grandmother whose son was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his child's mother doesn't have standing to petition for visitation with her grandchild under the Grandparent Visitation Act, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

B.M., paternal grandmother to C.R.P., appealed the dismissal of her petition in In Re: The visitation of C.R.P.; B.M. v. J.J.P.,  No. 29A04-0812-JV-758. B.M.'s son, J.J.P., pleaded guilty to manslaughter of his child's mother and voluntarily terminated his parental rights to C.R.P. The child was adopted by a maternal aunt and uncle.

B.M. argued on appeal the trial court misinterpreted the GVA when it concluded the grandparent seeking visitation rights must be the parent of the child's deceased parent. But the Court of Appeals agreed B.M. didn't have standing to petition for visitation. When reading Indiana Code Section 37-17-5-1 and Section 31-9-2-77, which defines a maternal or paternal grandparent, together, the statute provides that a parent of the child's parent may seek visitation rights if the child's parent is deceased. The GVA only confers standing upon grandparents who are the parents of the deceased parent of the child, wrote Judge James Kirsch. As a result, B.M. doesn't have standing and the trial court didn't err in dismissing her petition.

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