Grandparent Visitation Act Does Not Benefit Other Extended Family

Family Law Case Review

Case: In Re: the Grandparent Visitation of G.S., J.S. v. M.S.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: The Grandparent Visitation Act does not confer upon a trial court the authority to order visitation between a child and members of the child’s extended family other than the child’s grandparents.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father married in 2002, had one Child, and divorced in 2014. Father committed suicide in 2015.

After Father’s death, Mother curtailed the time that Child spent with Father’s mother (“Grandmother”). Mother also had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with other members of Father’s extended family. Mother and Child relocated to Tennessee for Mother’s employment, after which Grandmother filed a petition for visitation under the Grandparent Visitation Act.

Following a hearing, the trial court granted Grandmother’s petition, awarding her a visitation schedule with Child of one day per month for at least six hours, and overnights during the summer months. The order also included a telephone access provision. Most pertinent to this appeal, the order further expressly provided that there could be no conditions or restrictions placed on whether other extended family members could participate in visitation time exercised by Grandmother. Mother appealed.

Reviewing the trial court’s order, the Court of Appeals construed the terms of the order involving other extended family members as being a de facto visitation schedule in favor of extended family other than Grandmother. Since the Grandparent Visitation Act was implemented in derogation of the common law, it is to be construed narrowly. And, since it applies on its face only to Grandparents, the trial court’s inclusion of visitation related terms that benefit other extended family members was error.

The trial court’s visitation ordered was reversed as to the extended family members.

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

 

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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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