Grandparents lose second challenge of parental custody

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Grandparents who largely were the sole caregivers of a child until about age 3 lost a second custody challenge and bid to regain visitation with the child.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed orders by Johnson Circuit Judge Mark R. Loyd in T.H. and C.H. v. R.J. and K.J., 41A05-1310-MI-505, pertaining to custody and visitation of B.J., now 7. The child’s mother and stepfather, an Iraq war veteran, have custody of the child in a dispute chronicled by voluminous court filings in which the grandparents challenged custody and visitation orders.

The Court of Appeals addressed this matter previously, denying the grandparents’ motions to set aside the child’s adoption by mother and stepfather. In the instant case, the COA affirmed trial court findings used to support the custody determination.

While the grandparents have de facto custodian status, the panel held that they failed to rebut the presumption of custody in favor of natural parents. The de facto guardian status likewise ensures no relief if a court has properly discontinued visitation.

“Grandparents essentially ask that we expand the de facto custodian statute to give third parties visitation rights with children after being removed from their care. We decline to do so because our Supreme Court has clearly spoken on this issue,” Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III wrote for the panel, citing In re Paternity of K.I., 903 N.E.2d 453, 459 (Ind. 2009).

“We are bound by our Supreme Court’s decisions, and its precedent is binding on us until it is changed by our Supreme Court or legislative enactment. …  Accordingly, we decline Grandparents’ request to expand the de facto custodian statute to include visitation rights,” Pyle wrote.



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