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Court rules on grandparent custody, visitation

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In an opinion handed down Wednesday afternoon, the Indiana Supreme Court held that once a minimal burden has been met by a biological parent, it is up to a third party to prove that it's in a child's best interest to be placed in or remain in the custody of the third party. The high court also ruled that a grandparent must pursue visitation rights under the Grandparent Visitation Act instead of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines or de facto custodian statute.

The central issues in the case In Re the Matter of the Paternity of K.I., by grandmother and next friend, J.I., v. J.H., No. 13S05-0805-JV-213, are what standard a trial court should apply when ruling on a parent's petition to modify custody of a child who is already in the custody of a third party; and what role, if any, the presumption in favor of the natural parent plays in a modification proceeding.

K.I. remained in the care of her grandmother, J.I., for more than 18 months and during that time, J.H. exercised his visitation rights. The trial court then granted J.H. custody of his daughter and granted J.I. visitation consistent with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.

The grandmother appealed, claiming the wrong legal standard was applied for custody modifications from a grandparent to the natural parent and the court abused its discretion in awarding custody to J.H. The father cross-appealed the grant of visitation under the Parenting Time Guidelines.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the award of custody to J.H. and remanded for a determination on whether parental presumption had been overcome and if modification was in K.I.'s best interest. The appellate court also said if J.H. got custody on remand, then the trial court had to determine whether the grandmother should have visitation under the Grandparent Visitation Act or de facto custodian visitation.

The Supreme Court decided that the distinctions between the statutory factors required to get initial custody and those needed for a subsequent custody modification aren't significant enough to justify substantially different approaches in resolving custody disputes, wrote Justice Robert Rucker.

A natural parent seeking to modify custody has a very minimal burden of establishing the statutory requirements for modification showing it's in the best interest of the child and there's been a substantial change in one or more of the enumerated factors, wrote the justice. Once that burden has been met, it's up to the third party to prove the best interests of the child are to remain with the third party. J.I. failed to carry her burden, and the high court affirmed modification of custody in favor of J.H.

J.I.'s visitation should have been examined under the Grandparent Visitation Act, not the Parenting Time Guidelines or the de facto custodian visitation act. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's decision on the visitation and remanded with instructions to enter appropriate findings and conclusions consistent with the opinion and the Grandparent Visitation Act.

The opinion was originally posted with the full names of the grandmother and father, but removed and amended in accordance with the Indiana Administrative Rule 9(G)(4)(d), which became effective Jan. 1, 2009. That rule says orders, opinions and decisions issued by the appellate court shall be publicly accessible but each appellate court should exclude the names of the parties and affected parties from public access, except as essential to the resolution of litigation or appropriate to further the establishment of precedent or the development of the law.

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  • Natural custody RIGHTS
    WHY did the Father NOT get Custody in the first Place? Did he have Counsel? Bauer v McClure 1996--Pub. Law 104-193--ACCESS by Non-Cust. So.Car. --Foster Care kids RETURNED to BIOLAOGICAL PARENT

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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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