Trial Court Reversed on Allowing Biological Uncle Visitation Rights

Family Law Case Review
Case: In Re the Adoption of: P.A.H., f/k/a P..V., Minor Child, B.D. and L.H.C., v. J.H.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court lacked statutory authority to issue a child visitation order for a biological uncle.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:  Child was born with drugs in her system in March, 2011. As a result, Child was placed in foster care with Adoptive Parents. Child’s biological uncle appeared at a permanency hearing, requesting that Child be placed with him instead. After a contested hearing, the trial court ordered Child to remain in the placement of Adoptive Parents, but granted one day per week of visitation to Biological Uncle.

Child’s biological parents subsequently had their parental rights terminated. Both Adoptive Parents and Biological Uncle filed adoption petitions as to Child, which were consolidated into one cause. After a hearing, the trial court granted the adoption petition of Adoptive Parents, but also granted visitation to Biological Uncle. Adoptive Parents appealed the visitation order.

The Court of Appeals observed that third-party visitation rights are a creature of statute. While certain classes of individuals are authorized by statute to seek visitation (grandparents, siblings, etc.), Biological Uncle did not fall into any recognized statutory class. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in making its visitation order for Biological Uncle, rendering its visitation order void ab initio.

The trial court’s visitation order was reversed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re the Adoption of: P.A.H., f/k/a P..V., Minor Child, B.D. and L.H.C., v. J.H.

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The Matrimonial Law Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP is one of the largest full-service matrimonial and family law practices in the State of Indiana. We represent clients in a wide spectrum of family law matters, including premarital agreements, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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