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Court reverses suspension of mother's parenting time

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the modification of a mother’s parenting time to end any visitation with her autistic son because the father didn’t present evidence justifying terminating the parenting time. The judges also encouraged the mother to attend parenting classes or therapy to learn how to better deal with her son’s special needs.

Mother P.S. and father W.C. had one son together, W.C., who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. In May 2010, the mother’s parenting time was modified to Sundays from noon to 1 p.m. at a local McDonald’s, with the father supervising, and telephone calls on Wednesdays between 3 and 5 p.m. Mother was also ordered to treat their son appropriately for his age as a 10-year-old and refrain from talking about adult topics with him.

The father documented the visits and phone calls in a three-page journal, noting P.S. brought calendars with court dates on them, asked her son to tell her “I love you” so she could record it, and brought up his old school and behavior. She also fed him, brought him toys and books appropriate for preschoolers, and spoke baby talk to him on the phone.

After one of the visits, the son became upset and soiled himself that day. The son also reverted back to baby talk and became obsessed with baby things instead of items appropriate for a 10-year-old.

At a hearing, the mother explained that she brought the calendars because she knew her son liked them and didn’t think he’d know what the court dates meant; that she was just reminiscing when she brought up his old school and behavior to show how much he has grown; and that she had possibly referred to him as “baby,” but is trying to treat him like a pre-teen.

The trial court suspended her parenting rights and any other contact with her son and granted a protective order against her until July 2020, when W.C. would be 20.

In Paternity of W.C.; P.S. v. W.C., No. 82A04-1008-JP-496, the judges found father W.C. did not prove the need for such a restriction on P.S.’s parenting time. The evidence he presented was his journal; no guardian ad litem, therapist, or any other professional or objective witness testified. Based on the journal, the court found the mother’s actions endangered her son’s physical health and mental well-being by causing W.C. to be upset and anxious and impaired his emotional development.

While mother needs to improve her parenting skills, the evidence shows she loves her son and wants to be a part of his life and even brings him gifts, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

“This case throws into sharp relief the challenge of protecting a child’s emotional development and physical health and well-being while also recognizing a parent’s ‘precious privilege’ of exercising parenting time with that child. We do not minimize the behavioral issues W.C. has exhibited following Mother’s parenting time. However, Father simply did not present evidence justifying termination of what little parenting time Mother had left,” she wrote.

The appellate court reinstated the previous parenting time and asked the trial court to vacate the 10-year protective order. On remand, the judges encouraged the trial court to consider ordering the mother to attend parenting classes so she can learn how to appropriately deal with W.C.’s special needs. They also suggested the parenting time be supervised by a third party.
 

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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