Grandmother can't petition for visitation

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A grandmother has lost her right to petition for visitation rights after her son’s parental rights were terminated, so the trial court was correct in dismissing her petition, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday.

Grandmother M.S. was granted visitation with her two grandchildren during the dissolution of her son’s marriage and after the divorce was finalized. But she violated a provision of the visitation order that prohibited the grandchildren from seeing their father while in the grandmother’s care. The children’s mother petitioned to terminate M.S.’s visitation rights due to her failure to abide by the order, which the trial court granted.

M.S. filed a motion to correct error and reconsider, which were denied, and she didn’t appeal the order.

Nearly two years later, M.S.’s son had his parental rights terminated and the children were adopted by the mother’s new husband. Then, M.S. filed a petition to modify grandparental visitation, alleging she had previously been granted visitation rights and there had been a substantial change in circumstances that warranted her visitation rights to begin again. That petition was denied by the trial court and the petition was dismissed.

In In Re: The Marriage of J.D.S. and A.L.S.; M.S. v. A.L.S., No. 63A01-1102-DR-64, M.S. argued she had “vested” visitation rights with the children before the termination of her son’s parental rights and the adoption by the stepfather, so she has standing to seek modification of the recent visitation order. Although she had established visitation rights when she had standing to do so originally, she lost those rights at the time her son’s parental rights were terminated, wrote Chief Judge Margret Robb. There were also no rights to survive the children’s adoption.

The chief judge also noted that the trial court didn’t only order M.S.’s visitation stopped; it terminated her right to visitation.

“In order to regain grandparent visitation rights following this order, Grandmother would have had to petition for those rights and establish standing anew. Because she did not file her petition until after Father’s parental rights were terminated, Grandmother no longer had standing as the parent of the children’s parent, and there were no existing visitation rights upon which to bootstrap continued visitation in the wake of the adoption,” wrote the chief judge.



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