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Judges uphold denying visitation to ex-partner

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today that lawmakers didn’t intend to allow parents to establish joint custody with third parties under Indiana Code Section 31-17-2-3 by simply filing a joint petition with a trial court. Doing so would allow parents and third parties to circumvent the requirements of the Adoption Act.

“We conclude that Indiana Code section 31-17-2-3 does not contemplate the creation of a shared custody arrangement between a parent and a nonparent, regardless of the consent of the parties,” wrote Judge Paul Mathias in M.S. v. C.S., No. 03A01-1003-DR-140, in which a woman challenged the trial court’s ruling to vacate a previous custody and visitation order after she and her same-sex partner broke up.

C.S. had a child with donor sperm while she and M.S. were a couple. They filed a joint petition to determine custody, in which they sought joint legal custody and for M.S. to have parenting time. In September 2007, the trial court granted the petition; after the couple broke up, the trial court held it had no legal authority to enter the previous order and voided it. After a hearing in 2010, the trial court vacated the September 2007 order.

In addition to arguing the order was valid under I.C. Section 31-17-2-3, M.S. also claimed the 2007 order was binding because the parties consented to its entry. She wanted the appellate court to extend I.C. Section 31-15-2-17 to cover her situation because the protections provided by the dissolution statues should apply to all children, regardless of whether they are born into a traditional family or not.

“While we are mindful of the needs of children born into nontraditional families, we must also interpret the statute according to its plain and ordinary meaning. We … are further constrained to leave the public policy determinations attendant to the regulation of legal relationships within nontraditional families to the legislative branch of our government, the General Assembly,” wrote the judge.

The appellate court also rejected M.S.’s arguments that the trial court abused its discretion by modifying the custody and parenting time schedule in the 2007 order without a petition to modify or show substantial change in circumstances; and that she is entitled to parenting time with S.S.

Because the original order was void ab initio and a legal nullity, there was no legally effective custody or parenting time schedule to modify, wrote Judge Mathias. In addition, M.S. waived any claim on appeal that she is the child’s legal parent, so she isn’t entitled to parenting time with the child.

The judges cited King v. S.B., 837 N.E.2d 965, 966 (Ind. 2005), in which the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the trial court grant of the mother’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, holding that the mother’s former domestic partner was not necessarily precluded from being awarded some of the relief sought. The ex sued to be recognized as the child’s legal parent or to be awarded continued visitation with the child.

“Assuming without deciding that third-party visitation is not limited to former stepparents based on our supreme court’s holding in King, we conclude that M.S. is not entitled to visitation with S.S.,” wrote the judge.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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