COA rules Marion County had exclusive jurisdiction over custody of boy

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed an order out of Montgomery County regarding custody and parenting time of a boy because that court could not properly exercise jurisdiction. Marion County had exclusive jurisdiction over the custody of the boy.

M.B. and N.S. were appointed guardians of B.C. by Marion Superior Court, Probate Division, July 31, 2012. M.B. is the boy’s maternal grandfather. At this time, paternity had not been established. J.C., the boy’s biological father, filed a petition to establish paternity, custody, support and parenting time in Montgomery Circuit Court Dec. 19, 2012. In May 2013, the guardians filed a petition for adoption in Marion Superior Court.

At issue in In the Matter of the Paternity of B.C., M.B. and N.S. v. J.C., 54A01-1309-JP-398, is whether Montgomery Circuit Court or Marion Superior Court had jurisdiction to determine the custody of B.C.

The Court of Appeals found the Marion Superior Court had jurisdiction to enter its July 31, 2012, order appointing M.B. and N.S. as guardians over B.C. because, at that time, J.C. had not yet filed his verified petition to establish paternity. And based on statute, Montgomery Circuit Court was authorized to enter its order Dec. 20, 2012, establishing paternity because the issue of whether J.C. was B.C.’s father was not an issue pending before Marion Superior Court.

But the Montgomery Circuit Court was precluded from entering its July 5, 2013, order finding that the guardians should retain physical custody of B.C. at that time, that J.C. and the biological mother share joint legal custody, and that both parents should have parenting time. The guardianship, paternity, and adoption proceedings all relate to custody – a subject that was properly before the Marion Superior Court due to the guardianship action, the appeals court held.

The judges found that I.C. 31-19-2-14, which governs the exclusive jurisdiction when a petition for adoption and a petition to establish paternity are pending at the same time, controls rather than I.C. 31-30-1-1(3).

“While the Guardians did not cite Ind. Code § 31-19-2-14 to the Montgomery Circuit Court, they did request a transfer of the case to the Marion Superior Court, albeit to the guardianship proceedings, and the evidence presented at the hearing in the Montgomery Circuit Court included mention of the adoption petition filed by the Guardians,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.

“Because the petition for adoption and the paternity action were pending at the same time, the court in which the petition for adoption had been filed had exclusive jurisdiction over the custody of B.C. Accordingly, the Montgomery Circuit Court could not properly exercise jurisdiction to enter its July 5, 2013 order as the Marion Superior Court had exclusive jurisdiction over the custody of B.C., and the Marion Superior Court erred when it dismissed the guardianship and adoption proceedings. We reverse the Montgomery Circuit Court’s July 5, 2013 order and remand with instructions for the Marion Superior Court to comply with all provisions of Ind. Code §§ 31-19 and 29-3.”


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