A father who asked the trial court for a continuance to hire a lawyer after he realized his child’s grandparents had hired an attorney was prejudiced when the request was denied, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
The appeals panel reversed an order granting grandparents of a 3-year-old child visitation and remanded for a new hearing in J.P. v. G.M. and R.M., 38A02-1311-MI-960.
The case involves the children’s father and the maternal grandparents of a child whose mother died a little more than a year after the child was born.
Jay Circuit Judge Brian D. Hutchison awarded grandparents visitation similar to that awarded to a noncustodial parent under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines after a brief hearing. Father was not represented but asked for a continuance after expressing surprise that grandparents were represented. “I thought we were all just going to do it without an attorney so I didn’t get one,” father said, according to the record.
“Under the circumstances, we conclude that Father demonstrated good cause for a continuance of the hearing, that this case involved at least some complexity as well as a fundamental right of Father, and that Father was prejudiced by the denial of his motion for a continuance,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel.
“We also conclude that a delay would not have prejudiced Grandparents to an extent to justify denial of the continuance. Therefore, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Father’s motion to continue, and because we so find, we do not address Father’s other arguments.”