Trial Court’s Grandparent Visitation Order was Erroneous

Case: In re the Visitation of H.B., Adam Burris v. Timothy W. Schmidt and Anita J. Schmid
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court’s grandparent visitation order was erroneous because it was based upon an inaccurate finding of fact that was not supported by the evidence, specifically, a finding that Father would not permit the Grandparents any visitation in the absence of a court order.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Child was born to Father and Mother, who were unmarried, in 2008. Mother initially had custody of Child, but legal custody was modified to Father in 2012 based upon Mother’s alcohol and stability issues. Mother was given visitation, three times per month for two hours each visit, which was to be supervised by Father or his parents. With Father’s permission, Mother’s parents (“Grandparents”) joined Mother on some of these visits, and Grandparents also attended some of Child’s activities and events.

In 2013, Grandparents filed a petition for grandparent visitation pursuant to Indiana statute. The hearing on that petition ultimately produced findings and conclusions from the trial court, which awarded Grandparents one full weekend per month, as well as blocks of time during Child’s Christmas and summer breaks. The trial court’s order included certain findings, such as that Father did not permit Grandparents visitation outside of his supervision, and that, in the absence of a court order, there would be no visitation by Grandparents.

On Father’s appeal, the Court of Appeals agreed with Father. The Court found that Father had, in fact, established a pattern of permitting Grandparents to see Child and to attend Child’s activities and events. Instead, the Grandparents real complaint was about the amount and nature of their visitation opportunities, not that there was none. The Court noted that, when this is the essence of the dispute, judicial intervention is more likely to infringe upon the parent’s constitutional rights.

Concluding that the trial court’s visitation order was based upon central findings that were unsupported by the record, the trial court’s grandparent visitation order was reversed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re the Visitation of H.B., Adam Burris v. Timothy W. Schmidt and Anita J. Schmidt

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, 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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