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Molester’s imprisonment alone insufficient to bar contact with son

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Serving 50 years in prison for conviction of eight counts of Class A felony child molesting, a count of Class C felony child molesting and Class C felony criminal confinement is insufficient by itself for a court to rule an incarcerated father may not have phone or mail contact with his child, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Myron Jay Rickman filed a pro se appeal of Grant Circuit Judge Mark Spitzer’s denial of a petition for modification of visitation and denial of his motion to correct error, and won at least a procedural victory. The appellate panel sent the matter back to the trial court and ordered the judge to issue findings of facts on the ruling or grant a hearing.
 
The Court of Appeals opinion in Myron Jay Rickman v. Sheila Rena Rickman, 27A02-1211-DR-950, notes that Rickman was convicted for offenses that did not involve his child. Rickman asked the appeals court to instruct the trial court to conduct an in camera interview with his son, now 16, to determine his desire to have communication with his father.

The panel didn’t do that, but it did reverse the court’s denial in some measure because the child’s mother, Sheila Rena Rickman, did not file an appellate brief.

Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court that a chronological case summary entry in the matter stated only that Rickman’s petition was denied without hearing and that Rickman was incarcerated on child molesting charges.

“That statement is factual and does not constitute a sufficient written explanation indicating why the petition was denied or whether it was denied pursuant to Ind. Code § 31-17-4-2, or whether the court considered the Parenting Time Guidelines,” Brown wrote for the panel.

“In either event, a factual basis and a finding as to potential endangerment of (the son’s) physical health or safety or significant impairment of his emotional development are necessary. If on remand, the trial court determines the Guidelines to be applicable, it must then proffer an explanation for its departure from the Guidelines. Thus, the trial court must reflect upon the best interests of the child and the possible consequences of its departure from the provisions of Indiana Parenting Time Guideline I(A). Doing so would enable us to thoroughly and appropriately review the trial court’s deviation and the reasons behind it,” Brown wrote.

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