COA: Terminating guardianship is in child’s best interest

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In a contentious guardianship case involving a child’s father and her former stepgrandmother, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that the guardianship should be dissolved and the father should have custody of the child.

J.L.M. became guardian over M.N.S. while her father, M.S.S., was incarcerated after the girl’s mother signed a form granting the woman guardianship in 2004. J.L.M. had helped to take care of the girl since her birth. Once father was released from prison in 2005, he sought visitation with his child. After he found work, got married and gained custody of his younger daughter with M.N.S.’ mother, he sought to end the guardianship.

The court records note there was animosity between the guardian and father, in which J.L.M.  alleged the father had assaulted her and he physically abused his daughter. The abuse allegation was never substantiated.

In April 2013, after holding three days of hearings on the matter, the court concluded that the child should be with her father and the guardianship should be terminated.

Indiana courts have long held that there is a strong presumption that the child’s best interests are best served by placement with the natural parent. Thus, J.L.M. was required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the child’s best interests are substantially and significantly served by placement with her. She claims she met that burden, pointing to the strong bond between her and the child and the potential harm severing that bond could cause.

“Guardian’s argument that trial court erred by terminating the guardianship is nothing more than a request to reweigh the evidence and reassess the credibility of the witnesses, which we will not do. Thus, we affirm the trial court’s order granting Father’s motion to terminate the guardianship over Child,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote in In Re: the Guardianship of M.N.S.; J.L.M. v. M.S.S, 20A05-1308-GU-438.  


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