ILNews

COA rules on parenting time restriction

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Indiana Court of Appeals judges had differing opinions as to whether the trial court was required to enter findings during a hearing in which a mother's parenting time was restricted. One judge believed because she was granted parenting time, the court didn't have to enter findings pursuant to Indiana Code, and she can't challenge the court's failure to make any findings.

Judge Terry Crone wrote in his dissent that Indiana Code Section 31-14-14-1 requires the trial court to enter findings only when it denies any parenting time to the noncustodial parent. Judges Elaine Brown and Melissa May interpreted that statute to require a court to make a specific finding of physical endangerment or emotional impairment before restricting a noncustodial parent's visitation.

"To equate reasonable parenting time with the full panoply of visitation rights pursuant to the Parenting Time Guidelines and to allow a deviation therefrom only in situations where there is child endangerment would severely limit a trial court's ability to fashion a visitation schedule that best suits the situation of the parents involved. Such a result would be ill advised," wrote Judge Crone.

In T.W. v. S.N. III, No. 49A05-0903-CV-138, mother T.W. appealed the trial court's grant of a petition to modify child custody granting father S.N. III physical custody of their teenage son. She also argued the trial court abused its discretion by limiting her parenting time. The trial court found it would be in the best interests of the son to live with his father in Indianapolis, and the Court of Appeals unanimously agreed.

But Judges Brown and May agreed with the mother regarding the parenting time limitations and remanded for the court to either enter an order containing sufficient findings to support a visitation restriction or enter an order that doesn't contain a visitation restriction. After granting physical custody of their son to his father, the trial court ordered T.W. to have parenting time pursuant to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, with the exception she only have one weekend a month of parenting time.

The majority found the restriction to be an error because the trial court didn't release a finding that a restriction was warranted. Using Farrell v. Littell, 790 N.E.2d 612, 616 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), the majority determined the use of the word "might" in I.C. 31-14-14-1 means the court can't restrict visitation unless it would endanger the child's physical health or well-being.

Judge Crone argued because T.W. was granted parenting time, the court wasn't required to enter findings pursuant to statute, so she can't challenge the court's failure to enter such findings.

"Mother may challenge only whether her parenting time is reasonable. Based on the record before us, including evidence regarding the significant geographical distance between Mother and Father, I conclude that it is," he wrote.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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