Friday, January 29, 2016
From Indiana Lawyer:
Fifteen years after Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), grandparent visitation is alive and well in Indiana and across the country. In Troxel, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor noted, “The demographic changes of the past century make it difficult to speak of an average American family. The composition of families varies greatly from household to household.” Indeed, the last 15 years have only enhanced this sentiment. Given continued high levels of divorce and out-of-wedlock births, the role of grandparents continues to be an important source of stability in some families. Thus, in 2015, grandparent visitation made several appearances on the Indiana court dockets.
In one such case, In re the Visitation of L-A.D.W. R.W. v. M.D. and W.D., 38 N.E.3d 993 (Ind. 2015), a child’s maternal grandparents filed for visitation under the Grandparent Visitation Act after their relationship with the child’s father became contentious. Their daughter had recently died of cancer and expressed her wishes in her will for them to have generous visitation with her child. Based on the opinion of mental health experts, the trial court determined that it was in the child’s best interest to have a meaningful and ongoing relationship with grandparents, with visitation totaling approximately 79 days per year. While noting the lack of guidance regarding the proper amount for grandparent visitation, the Court of Appeals determined that 79 days was improper under the Grandparent Visitation Act because it was too significant and resembled the parenting time a non-custodial parent would have in such a case. However, after reviewing the circumstances of this particular case – including the closeness of the child to the maternal grandparents due to the father’s demanding work schedule – the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order of visitation.
In another grandparent visitation case, Jocham v. Sutliff, 26 N.E.3d 82 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that a grandmother was no longer a “grandparent” with standing to seek visitation under the grandparent visitation statute at the time she filed the petition because the stepparent already had adopted the child. The court held that “visitation rights,” as referenced in the grandparent visitation statute, refer to already-established visitation rights at the time of the stepparent adoption, rather than the right to seek visitation in the future.
Read more here.