Stepfather’s Behavior Supports Changing Custody to Father

Family Law Case Review:

Case: Jessica Robertson v. Brian Robertson
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Evidence supported trial court’s modification of custody from Mother to Father in light of Mother’s remarriage to Stepfather, and Stepfather’s attendant drug use, criminal history, and behavioral problems.

In 2010, the marriage of Mother and Father was dissolved. Mother was awarded custody of the parties’ then 3- and 4-year-old children.

In 2014, Mother remarried Stepfather. Out of concern for Stepfather’s relationship with and its impact on the children, Father filed a petition to modify custody.

At a hearing, which included GAL testimony, there was substantial evidence regarding Stepfather, including his criminal history, unemployment, prescription drug use and misuse, passing out while eating dinner, being overly physical with the children, falling asleep while smoking a cigarette, and driving with a suspended license while the children were in the car with him. After the hearing, the trial court modified custody from Mother to Father, from which Mother appealed.

Noting the considerable latitude that is extended to a trial court considering child custody issues, the Court of Appeals concluded that sufficient evidence had been presented to demonstrate that Stepfather’s presence in the children’s lives supported the trial court’s conclusion that there had been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances, and that the children’s best interests would be served by changing custody to Father.

The trial court’s order was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Jessica Robertson v. Brian Robertson


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

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