ILNews

Court rules on grandparent visitation

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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What is likely to be a ruling of first impression in Indiana and one of a few nationally, the Indiana Court of Appeals today reversed a ruling that had ended a grandmother's visitation with her grandson following the adoption of her adult mother.

The 11-page ruling comes in a guardianship action involving the minor, J.E.M, in Maxine E. Handshoe v. Jessica L. Ridgway, No. 76A03=0612-CV-603.

Grandmother Maxine Handshoe is appealing the Steuben Circuit ruling that terminated her visitation privileges with her biological grandson, J.E.M, who was born out of wedlock in 2001 to her daughter, Ridgway. The grandmother had guardianship until April 2005, when Ridgeway - at age 22 - was adopted in Michigan by her second cousins. She filed a petition to end guardianship and visitation, arguing that Handshoe was no longer J.E.M.'s grandmother by virtue of the adoption. The trial court agreed.

However, in analyzing the issue on appeal, the three-judge appellate panel examined the state's Grandparent Visitation Act.

"The GVA is silent, however, on the question of the effect of an adult parent's adoption on the ability of a biological grandparent to seek visitation with his or her grandchild," the court wrote. "This is a question of first impression in Indiana. Our research has revealed that it also appears to be an issue that seldom has arisen anywhere in the country."

Relying on a decision from a Florida appeals court, Indiana's jurists found that the adoption only applies to Ridgway - not the minor child.

"We conclude that Ridgway's decision to legally sever ties with her biological mother, Handshoe, does not automatically and for purposes of the GVA sever all of Handshoe's ties with her biological grandson, J.M., who himself has not been adopted by any third party," the court wrote, adding that the mother's decision to terminate visitation could be a consideration in whether further visitation should be allowed.
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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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