ILNews

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. 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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