Family Law Case Review: Divorce Court May Issue an Order Providing for Visitation Even if Custody Orders are in Place from Another Court

Case: Jovon R. Richardson v. Joshua M. Richardson
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Under certain circumstances, a divorce court may issue an order providing for visitation between a step-parent and a child, even if the child is subject to previous custody and parenting time orders of another court.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother gave birth to Child in 2003. A subsequent paternity action established paternity of Father, and included orders of child support and parenting time.

In 2008, Mother married Step-Father. By this time, Father was basically out of Child’s life. Child and Step-Father developed a close bond, and Child essentially treated Step-Father like her father.

In 2013, Step-Father filed for a dissolution of his marriage to Mother. As part of those proceedings, in addition to adjudicating property division and custody and parenting of a subsequent child that Step-Father and Mother had together, the trial court also included a visitation order for Step-Father to have visitation time with Child. Mother appealed.

In its review, the Court of Appeals noted that it is “well established that stepparents have standing to seek visitation rights and that a trial court has the authority to grant the same.” However, at the core of Mother’s appeal was her assertion that, in this particular situation, the trial court lacked authority to issue its visitation order because Child was already the subject of a custody and parenting time order in the preexisting paternity matter between Mother and Father.

The Court of Appeals acknowledged that Father was not a party to the divorce proceedings between Step-Father and Mother and, thus, the trial court could not issue orders affecting Father’s rights. However, since the visitation order of the trial court implicated only Mother’s parenting time — that is, Step-Father’s visitation periods would occur exclusively during Mother’s parenting time periods under the prior paternity order — the trial court’s order did not conflict with the paternity order, or infringe upon any of Father’s rights.

The trial court’s order was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Jovon R. Richardson v. Joshua M. Richardson

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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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