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Justices remand for more proceedings on grandparent visitation order

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After finding a grandparent visitation order entered in Johnson County is voidable because of defects, the Indiana Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court for new findings and conclusions without hearing new evidence.

M.L.B. was born out of wedlock and never had a relationship with his biological father. But his paternal grandfather M.A.B. was present in the child’s life from the beginning and mother K.J.R. allowed the boy to have frequent contact with the family, as long as the biological father was not present. After her new husband sought to adopt M.L.B., she curtailed the visits. M.A.B. intervened in the proceedings to petition for grandparent visitation.

The court awarded him visitation beyond what the boy typically experienced, including overnights and a summer family vacation of up to 10 days. The mother appealed, arguing it violated her fundamental parental rights. A divided Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.

In In Re: Visitation M.L.B.: K.J.R. v. M.A.B., 41S01-1209-MI-556, Justice Loretta Rush outlined the four factors a grandparent visitation order should address, as discussed in Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), and later adopted by the Court of Appeals in McCune v. Frey, 783 N.E.2d 752, 757-59 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), and by the Supreme Court in In Re K.I., 903 N.E.2d 453, 457 (Ind. 2009). The first three factors implement the constitutionally protected right of fit parents to make child-rearing decisions and reflect the significant burden of proof grandparents must carry to override those decisions. The order in the instant case is insufficient as to all three, Rush pointed out.

None of the trial court’s findings give any indication it recognized the presumption that a fit parent acts in his or her child’s best interests or special weight to a fit parent’s decision to deny or limit visitation. The justices also found that the amount of visitation awarded to M.A.B. far exceeded the parties’ earlier pattern.

On the fourth factor, which considers the child’s best interest, the trial court’s findings are amply supported by the evidence and that factor is satisfied.

“… despite the trial court’s ample ‘best interests’ findings, the lack of findings on the other three factors, both standing alone and as compounded by the extensive visitation awarded without those necessary findings, violates Mother’s fundamental right to direct M.L.B.’s upbringing,” Rush wrote for the unanimous court.

The justices found the trial court order is defective and voidable and ordered on remand for the trial court to issue new findings and conclusions as required by McCune and K.I.

 

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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