Trial Court Says Without Grandparent Visitation Order There Would Be Little to No Relationship

Case: In Re: Grandparent Visitation of K.M., F.M. v. K.F.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court acted within its discretion in issuing a grandparent visitation order, particularly where the record supported the trial court’s finding that, in the absence of court-ordered grandparent visitation, there would be little or no relationship between Grandmother and Child.

HELD: The visitation schedule issued by the trial court was reversed and remanded. A visitation schedule that approximates the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines schedule is not generally appropriate in grandparent visitation cases, and was not justified under the circumstances of this case.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Child was born in October 2012 to Mother and Father. Father’s mother, Grandmother, originally had contact with Child once or twice per month. In early 2014, Father passed away.

Thereafter, Mother allowed Grandmother to have periodic contact with Child. However, after one particularly contentious visit, Mother stopped communicating with Grandmother and did not allow Grandmother to see Child. Several months later, Grandmother filed a petition for grandparent visitation.

After a hearing, the trial court issued an order allowing for grandparent visitation. The specifics of the order allowed for Grandmother to have an IPTG-type schedule. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals rejected Mother’s claims that the visitation order was not appropriate. The Court attached the most significance to evidence in the record that, without court-ordered visitation, there would likely be no relationship between Child and Grandmother (or the rest of Father’s family). This factor overcame the Constitutional safeguard and presumptions that generally worked in Mother’s favor.

However, the Court also concluded that the specific visitation schedule issued by the trial court was excessive. The Grandparent Visitation Act contemplates “occasional, temporary visitation” that does not substantially infringe on a parent’s fundamental rights.

Here, the trial court’s order provided that Grandmother would have visitation per the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines for the indefinite future, noting that Mother’s prospective relocation could change the schedule. While a grandparent visitation order that tracks the IPTG is not per se error, it is appropriate only under rare circumstances where the grandparents are already uncommonly involved in the child’s life. Those circumstances not being present here, the visitation order was excessive.

The trial court’s issuance of a grandparent visitation order was affirmed, but the specific schedule remanded.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re: Grandparent Visitation of K.M., F.M. v. K.F.

 

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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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