Court of Appeals Rules Grandparents Yearly 79 Days of Visitation is Excessive

Case: In Re the Visitation of L-A.D.W; R.W. v. M.D. and W.D.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court’s grandparent visitation order was affirmed where evidence was presented that Father intended to deny grandparent visitation absent a court order.

HELD: However, the grandparent visitation scheduled issued by the trial court, which would have allowed Grandparents 79 days of visitation per year, was excessive and too similar to the amount of time that would be allowed to a non-custodial parent, so the specific schedule was reversed and remanded to be scaled back.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
It was uncontroverted that Mother’s parents (“Grandparents”) had been closely involved in Child’s life from birth, even providing many primary caretaking functions as Mother opened a new pediatric dentistry practice and Father completed a medical school residency.

In 2010, when Child was five years old, Mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she subsequently died. Shortly after Mother’s death, Grandparents filed a petition for Grandparent visitation.

After a hearing, the trial court issued an order that followed the four In re: K.I. requirements of a grandparent visitation order analysis. Following that analysis, the trial court issued a grandparent visitation order, based primarily upon evidence that Father would terminate the Grandparents’ opportunity to visit with Child. The trial court issued a specific order that provided Grandparents with 79 days of visitation per year. Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed each of the four In re: K.I. factors, as analyzed by the trial court, and determined that, as to each, Father was asking the Court of Appeals to reweigh the evidence and that the trial court had not abused its discretion. Thus, the conclusion that a grandparent visitation order was appropriate was affirmed.

However, the Court of Appeals found that the specific visitation schedule issued in this case was excessive. The Court held in previous cases that a schedule that approximates a visitation schedule for a non-custodial parent (the IPTG provides for 98 overnights of parenting time) is improper in the grandparent visitation context. Here, Grandparents were given a schedule with 79 days of visitation. The Court of Appeals remanded the schedule to be scaled back to “occasional, temporary visitation that does not substantially infringe on” Father’s rights.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re the Visitation of L-A.D.W; R.W. v. M.D. and W.D.

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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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