ILNews

COA reverses father's visitation of adopted daughter

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Although one Indiana Court of Appeals judge concurred that a biological father’s petition granting visitation with his daughter should be reversed, he urged legislators and the Indiana Supreme Court to reconsider the issues raised in this case to “avoid equally unjust results in future cases.”

Judges Cale Bradford, James Kirsch, and Terry Crone ruled that biological father J.D.’s visitation petition regarding his daughter A.H. should be reversed, but for different reasons.

J.D. and J.S. had daughter A.H. when they were in high school and she was born with a congenital heart defect. J.S.’s parents adopted A.H. so that she could have medical insurance and child care. J.D. consented to the adoption. The two married and had a second daughter. They filed a petition to adopt A.H. but it was never finalized.

J.S. and J.D. later divorced and J.S. remarried. During the pendency of the proceedings, J.D. was able to visit with A.H. without any issue, but visitation issues later arose after J.S. remarried. She and her husband have petitioned to adopt A.H., which is still pending. After the divorce, J.D. filed a petition to establish visitation with A.H. The trial court granted it, ruling that pursuant to Collins v. Gilbreath, 403 N.E.2d 921 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980), J.D. qualified as a third-party nonparent custodian whose court-ordered visitation with A.H. was in her best interests.

In C.H., M.H. and J.S. v. J.D., No. 29A05-1004-DR-204, Judges Bradford and Kirsch reversed on the grounds that J.D. had to use the procedures established in Indiana Code Section 31-19-16-2 to establish post-adoption visitation with A.H. They also cited In re Visitation of A.R., 723 N.E.2d 476, 479 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), to support that this section is the exclusive means for seeking relief in a situation like this.

Judge Crone concurred in result in a separate opinion, writing that In re Paternity of K.I., 903 N.E.2d 453 (Ind. 2009), controls. He disagreed with using A.R. to affirm, believing trial courts should be given sufficient flexibility to ensure the best interests of the child are served in each case.

K.I. held that a person’s de facto custodian status deals only with the question of custody and that the statute is silent on the question of visitation. Judge Crone believed the instant case shows the inequity of carrying K.I.’s holding to its illogical conclusion as he’s found no basis for granting J.D. visitation under Indiana law.

J.D. shouldn’t be put in an all-or-nothing position based on circumstances almost entirely beyond his control, he wrote. He questioned why trial courts should have the legal authority in these situations to grant a birth parent custody but not any form of visitation. He also wrote that denying J.D. visitation with A.H. is troubling because he is allowed to see A.H.’s sister without issue.

“Sometimes, when we must write an opinion using initials instead of names, the impersonality tends to diminish the very real human drama created by our decision. Today we are forced to separate two young sisters on alternate weekends for no logical reason that I can discern. I believe that our legislature should review Indiana’s visitation statutes and that our supreme court should reconsider its pronouncements in K.I. so that we may avoid equally unjust results in future cases,” he wrote.
 

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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