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Justices: Order giving grandmother visitation rights is void

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Because a grandmother did not have standing under the terms of Indiana’s Grandparent Visitation Statute to pursue visitation, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that an original order granting visitation is void. The woman wanted to see her two grandchildren whose mother was murdered by the grandmother’s son.

Paternal grandmother J.C. filed a petition to intervene in the guardianship of A.J.A. and L.M.A., who were in the custody of their uncle and his partner after their father murdered their mother. J.C. sought grandparent visitation rights and was granted supervised visitation in 2009. The guardians later sought to end her visitation rights after learning J.C. allowed contact between grandchildren and her son, who was in prison for the murder.

In 2012, the trial court declared the 2009 order void after finding J.C. lacked standing under the Grandparent Visitation Statute.

The law allows grandparents to petition for visitation if the child’s parent is deceased, the marriage of the child’s parents has been dissolved in Indiana, or the child was born out of wedlock. J.C. claimed that her son should be considered deceased because of his 60-year prison sentence or that the marriage between her son and his wife is dissolved because of the murder.

“In the present case, both of Grandmother’s theories would produce an absurd result. Her first theory, that her son is for all intents and purposes deceased, unfortunately attempts to circumvent the strict interpretation the statute is due and therefore her argument fails. Her son is not dead,” Justice Steven David wrote. “Grandmother’s other theory for grandparent visitation is that by virtue of the murder, the marriage was dissolved. This produces an even more nonsensical result. We cannot construe any scenario where the General Assembly intended the Grandparent Visitation Act to potentially require grandparent visitation by the mother of an individual who shot and killed the grandchildren’s other parent.”

The justices held that the original order granting J.C. visitation was void and thus without legal effect. They affirmed the 2012 order finding the same result.

“This is a case where Grandmother had no legal right to pursue grandparent visitation under the statute. Remand cannot cure the defect. The only cure is to hold the original order was void ab initio,” David wrote in In Re the Guardianship of A.J.A. and L.M.A., Minor Children; J.C. v. J.B. and S.B., 48S02-1305-GU-398.

 

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  • Thank you
    I could not be happier that the Supreme Court affirmed the Trial Court. It has been a four year battle fighting for what was right for us and I am relieved to know that it is almost over.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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