Trial Court Erred Denying Child Molestation Convict Modified Parenting Time

Family Law Case Review
Case: Rickman v. Rickman
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Despite Father’s incarceration for child molestation convictions, the trial court erred when it denied Father’s petition to modify parenting time (in which Father requested telephone access and communication via mail with the child) without providing any written findings in support of the denial.

Child was born to Mother and Father in 1996. The next year, Mother filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. A CASA then recommended supervised visitation, because Father was under investigation for three alleged incidents of child molestation (involving children other than Child). The Decree granted Mother sole legal and physical custody, subject to Father’s supervised parenting time.

In 1999, apparently as a result of Father’s subsequent conviction on the molestation charges, the CASA requested and was granted a suspension of Father’s parenting time rights. Father was sentenced to 50 years.

In 2012, Father, still incarcerated, filed a petition to modify visitation, seeking telephone and mail communication with Child. The trial court denied the petition without a hearing, but noted in its CCS entry that Father was presently incarcerated on child molestation charges. Father’s subsequent motion to correct error was also denied, from which Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals recited the “best interests of the child” standard that controls parenting time decisions. The Court also noted Indiana’s statute that prohibits the restriction of parenting time absent a finding of potential endangerment to the child. Since the trial court made no findings in support of its denial of Father’s petition, the matter was reversed and remanded for the trial court to enter appropriate findings, or to otherwise conduct proceedings consistent with its opinion.

The denial of Father’s petition to modify was reversed and remanded.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Myron Jay Rickman v. Sheila Rena Rickman


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