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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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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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