Written by Michael R. Kohlhaas
Romero v. McVey (April 8, 2021)
HELD: Trial court erred when it denied grandparents request for visitation rights, apparently based upon an optimism that such visitation could be arranged informally and without a court order. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Child was born to parents who had complicated legal and substance abuse problems, and Child was immediately placed in the care of Child’s maternal aunt (“Aunt”). Aunt began the process of initiating an adoption of Child. A week after Child’s birth, DCS initiated a CHINS matter, citing Mother’s substance abuse. Mother was out of the picture thereafter, and Father was incarcerated. Father’s mother and stepfather (“Grandparents”) filed a petition for grandparent visitation. While Grandparents were seeing Child regularly based upon an informal understanding they had with Aunt, Grandparents expressed concerned the opportunities to see Child might stop after the Aunt’s adoption of Child was finalized. At a hearing of the matter, Aunt testified that she was supportive of Child’s relationship with Grandparents, and that she wished for it to continue. However, the trial court denied the petition for grandparent visitation, writing, in part, that “[n]o evidence has been presented suggesting that [Aunt] will restrict appropriate conduct with [Child’s] relatives post adoption.” Grandparents appealed. The Court of Appeals noted the deference afforded to trial courts hearing family law matters. The Court noted that the Grandparents met the statutory criteria for seeking a grandparent visitation order and, importantly, that such an order must be established prior to an adoption for a grandparent to have guaranteed contact with the child post-adoption. Evaluating the circumstances, the Court of Appeals concluded it was in Child’s best interests to have a grandparent visitation order, and that the trial court’s denial of same was clearly erroneous. The denial of the Grandparents’ visitation petition was reversed and remanded for further proceedings to fashion a specific grandparent visitation order. _________________________________________________________________________________________________
James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas 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. Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs, PC, is the premiere boutique family law firm in the state of Indiana. Visit the firm’s website at cgblawfirm.com.