Family Case Law Review: Indiana Supreme Court Vacated COA Opinion on Excessive Visitations

Case: Stanley Kahn v. Beverly (Kahn) Baker
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: In a grandparent visitation case, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order that gave the grandparents a significant visitation schedule: approximately 79 days per year, 24 of which would be overnights. The transfer vacated a Court of Appeals opinion from earlier this year in which the Court of Appeals determined the extent of the visitation schedule was excessive.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court was clear that trial courts should have broad discretion in fashioning a grandparent visitation schedule, that there were no specific statutory limitations on the amount of time the visitation schedule could provide, and that the appropriate amount of visitation will inevitably vary depending upon the circumstances of each case. Here, the trial court’s visitation order was appropriate given the young age of the child, the significant prior involvement the grandparents had in the child’s life, and the fact that much of the visitation was thoughtfully scheduled to occur on the Father’s call weekends.

Chief Justice Rush, joined by Justice Rucker, wrote a separate concurring opinion to suggest a preferred, less deferential analysis for grandparent visitation orders that would give heightened sensitivity to the constitutional considerations set forth in Troxel and elsewhere – specifically, that court-ordered grandparent visitation is necessarily in tension with parents’ constitutional rights to make decisions for their children. “I find it unhelpful to frame this issue as involving our usual ‘substantial deference to the trial court’s determination of family law matters.’” However, under the facts of this case, her less deferential analysis would have reached the same conclusion to affirm the trial court.

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.

To read the original digest of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, Click Here.

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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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